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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It only polled registered Republicans in SC even though it's an open primary.
I would LOVE to see Newt win South Carolina, just to screw up the Republican party even more! These candidates are so screwed up, so disconnected from middle class America that you couldn't write a better comedy script if you worked for Saturday Night Live!
Romney is the best, and will be the next President of the United States. He is intelligent successful and like things to be perfect. He is the character that the United States needs to lead us to success. Wake up people and smell the coffee. We Need Romney ...
Newt has some weapons grade family values backing him up.
Romney is not as bad a choice as I once thought, after a lot of research into his policies and plans, he is really quite brilliant, regardless of his religion! As a conservative southerner, Mitt's fiscal policy is super sound, his ideas are refreshing and he is by far and away the most electable candidate. I used to like Newt, but the more I learn, the more I realize that he is not what this country needs right now. I now truly hope Romney wins the nomination.
mitt is going to be history
John McCain won SC with about the same percentage in 2008. It is a definite indication the Mitt Romney has about as much appeal as the guy who forgot his name endorsing him. I expect he will do as well in November as McCain did in spite of having large contributions from the big Wall Street financial firms.
I am tired of poles. Been wrong before. Go Ron Paul !
A unethical, 84 corruption charges, Serial Adulterer and a Vulture Capitalist with magical underwear and an insane old coot...wow, the Republican candidates are sure impressive this year.
Gov Romney is the only GOP candidate that can beat Obama. Just look at the head-to-head polls. Gingrich loses to Obama on average by 10%. Newt's got no chance winning the Independents unlike Romney.
Hard to believe Romeny is doing so well,,he really isn't a Republican or a Bible believing Christian either being Mormon, so I don't get it. If Romney wins the republican nomination we haven't learned anything in the last 4 years and might as well re-elect Obama and suffer the consequences.
What a diverse crowd surrounding Mit....NOT. Notice, no Asians, Blacks, Hispanics etc. etc. Typical GOP ...
to be blunt about it... we will have a polarizing crusty fat old white guy as the nominee guilty of ethics violations, cheating on multiple marriages, etc. who will not be able to win the White House.
Mark my words. Newt = 4 more years of Obama.
According to the full results, all of those polled in both states were over 50 years old. How is this at all representative of true voter sentiment?
No surprise here. The dirt on Romney was going to come out sooner or later.
SHAMELESS BIAS IN THE SAMPLE!!! Cody's post at 4:12 PM Jan 18 is correct. This is a horriblly skewed sample and this poll should be laughed at. They only sampled old white people, and excluded an entire geographical area. Something tells me this sample was chosen in order engineer a certain result to provide bias against someone who would do well with younger voters, or biased in favor of someone who does well with older WHITE voters. This poll is racist and agist! SHAME ON CNN!
Another phony, bias CNN poll. In Florida, 1,508 adults interviewd by phone, 1525 adults in South Caroline. All of them are white and over age 50. Since when the minimum voting age become 50 and limited to white only in America?
None of these candidates will win. The Grinch sounds like a mean old man, Santorium is just nutz, Perry is rediculous and that leaves Paul. The ditherer. Let's deregulate everything. No one to check the food supply, drugs not one to report deseases too, no one to report consumer affairs complaints too. The only one that looks Presidential is Barack....oh yeah. he is the President. They have all distorted his record too.
But then that's what these clowns do. Say and do anything to get elected. I thought they were for less government and in the end they are actually for more. They just want to control every aspect of your life...even your reproductive cycle and what you do in your own bedroom. Enough already!
I really do not have a horse in this race, but I just hope whoever is the Rep nominee can beat out Obama. America has suffered for the last four years as a result of Obama being elected because of his skin color. america cannot handle another 4 years with him at the helm.
There's only one right choice, Ron Paul 2012!
I am actually cheering for Newt, because he is an easier candidate for Obama to beat in November, so the gap between Romney and Gingrich in S.C. shrinking would be good news. However, the headline is not accurate. The difference in numbers between the most recent poll and the previous one is within the statistical sampling error. So, there may be a slight trend in Gingrich's favor, but the gap is nowhere close to shrinking. CNN, take STAT101 and stop beating a dead horse.
After the Civil War, hordes of Republican Yankee carpetbaggers descended on the South like locusts, corrupting their elections and pillaging their state. Who would have thought that a bunch of GOP carpetbaggers from Washington could do the same thing in 2012.
Ron Paul 2012 - the real conservative choice!
Anybody but RINO ROMNEY !!
And why shouldn't Gingrich be gaining momentum?? After all, he's giving conservatives what they want–i.e., more thinly-veiled insults and stereotypes about minorities the poor people. Romney's really got to step down his game if he wants to compete with that! Santorum's already got the gay bashing locked up tight. Newt's going for blacks now (taking the reigns from Paul, who refuses to own his d1ckishness).... Mitten's had better hurry and snap up a historically disadvantaged group to publicly disparage before they're all gone!