Charleston, South Carolina (CNN) - With three days to go until the first-in-the south primary, Mitt Romney remains in the lead in the Palmetto State, but according to a new poll, his advantage over Newt Gingrich is rapidly shrinking.
A CNN/Time/ORC International poll indicates that 33% of likely South Carolina Republican primary voters say they are backing Romney, with 23% supporting Gingrich. The former Massachusetts governor's 10 point advantage over the former House speaker is down from a 19 point lead two weeks ago. According to the survey, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is at 16%, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is at 13%, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry stands at 6%.
See full results (pdf)
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The survey was released Wednesday, on the eve of a CNN-Southern Republican presidential debate, the final showdown for the candidates before Saturday's primary, the third contest in the primary and caucus calendar. And the poll came on the same day that Romney and his campaign appeared to step up their attacks on Gingrich.
"Gingrich appears to be the only candidate with momentum as the race in South Carolina enters the final few days," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Support for Romney and Santorum appears to be slipping, and Paul and Perry seem flat. Gingrich, however, has gained ground and cut Romney's lead in half since early January."
"All of Gingrich's increased support comes among tea party movement supporters, where he's at 31% support, up ten points from early January," adds Holland. "That suggests that Sarah Palin's remarks urging South Carolina voters to choose Gingrich may have a receptive audience."
Among voters who oppose the tea party or are neutral towards it, Romney holds a commanding 30 point lead over Gingrich and the rest of the field of candidates. The survey indicates that born-again Christians are divided, with 26% supporting Romney, 23% backing Gingrich, and 20% saying they'll vote for Santorum. Among those likely primary voters who don't identify themselves as born-again, Romney has a large lead.
Nearly all the interviews were conducted before the Palin's Tuesday night remarks and before Monday night's presidential debate. Most pundits agree that Gingrich had a strong performance at the debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C. At the same showdown, Romney came under attack by his rivals for hedging on whether he would release his tax returns.
The Thursday night CNN debate could further influence South Carolina voters. And with more than four in ten likely primary voters saying that they could still change their minds between now and Saturday, a last minute surge for one candidate or another could materialize.
Florida's GOP presidential primary follows South Carolina's contest by ten days. A CNN/Time/ORC International poll of likely Sunshine State primary voters indicates that Romney still has a commanding lead, with more likely voters in his camp than Santorum and Gingrich combined. According to the survey, which was also released Tuesday, Romney stood at 43%, with Santorum at 19%, Gingrich 18%, Paul 9% and Perry at 2%.
"As in South Carolina, Romney does better among voters who do not support the tea party and those who do not consider themselves born-again Christians. In fact, he finishes second to Santorum among born-again voters," says Holland. "But, as with South Carolina, more than four in ten Florida voters have not made up their minds, and with the all-important South Carolina primary still in the future, the poll does not stand as a prediction of what will happen in Florida."
The poll in South Carolina was conducted for CNN and Time magazine by ORC International from January 13-17, with 505 voters who are likely to vote in the Republican primary questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
The poll in Florida was conducted for CNN and Time magazine by ORC International from January 13-17, with 391 voters who are likely to vote in that state's Republican primary. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus five percentage points.
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No matter how you spin it, Republican "trickle-down" economics = Tea Pee
Let's elect any of these Republicans for President, and have them promptly rip us a new one like before. Nice.
How exciting....The corporate raider vs. Freddie Mac's historian.....I'll pass.
Mitt, sign the lady's poster already.
Don't forget that SC is a very conservative state. Super Tuesday won't be as conservative. And if Gingrich does win or finish closely it adds pressure to Romney and the Democrats are going to be very happy.
Where did these polls come from? The SC Poll only selected whites over the age of 50. This does not accurately represent the voters in South Carolina.
Romney is not the evil money-grubber that some would paint him to be....Most of us would pay the least amount of tax that the LAW would allow. Can't fault him for that.
So SC Would Vote for a War Monger and someone flip flops? thats new.
we all know Ron Paul will take the nomination, no matter the lies and censorship, the people will rise and voter for real freedom. Ron Paul 2012
Ron Paul 2012
Santorum that high? Really South Carolina? Really?
You deserve to burn.
I don't think that Mitt is the evil money-grubber that some would paint him to be. Most of us would want to make the most income possible and pay the least tax under the rule of law. I think that I can make the best decisions on what to do with tne money that I earn.
It's like a race for who's the most whacko.
Glad Newt got back on track. His voice needs to be heard. Still gonna be a climb for him to beat Rom, but Santorum dropping out would make things very interesting.
Heh.. Time and time again, CNN continues to distort its poll numbers. It says the poll polled "likely voters" in the Republican primary, but unlike every other poll out there, it only used registered Republicans in the survey. South Carolina has an open primary, so Democrats, independents, and Republicans can all vote. This will dramatically change the results.
Snooty, Mittens, Sanitarium, and the Anarchist.
It doesn't matter.
None of these GOP clowns stands any chance of being elected.
My favorite part about this "poll" is that you only polled white people over 50 who make more than $50K/year. Real good representation of America.
Look who is backing Romney and Gingrich (and Obama for that matter, Goldman Sachs and other huge companies (that received bailout money from tax-payers).
Look who is supporting Ron Paul: The united states military.
More lobbyist dollars do not make a candidate better, but perhaps, makes them more corrupt.
and this is why we can't have nice things.... idiots vote for gingrich and romney.
The people of South Carolina actually listen to Sarah Palin? Maybe we should have let them leave the union when we had the chance!
It looks like the South Carolina Klu Klux and the tea-party vulture Christians will decide the Republican candidate
for President. That's no way to run a party or a country.
Romney is such a stooge. Ron Paul is the only GOP candidate that I don't want to punch in the face.
Mitt Romney is the man for 2012.
He's up by 10%...yea, the race is REALLY close.
For our countries sake I hope Newt wins. It is hard for me to vote for a guy who lost to the other guy who lost to Obama. This country is in such a mess we need a leader with ideas. Obama and his cabinet has run out a long time ago.