Newt Gingrich led Mitt Romney 34-28 in PPP’s South Carolina polling last night, the first of what will be three nights of tracking. Ron Paul at 15%, Rick Santorum at 14%, Rick Perry at 5%, and Buddy Roemer at 3% round out the field.
This is not a case of Romney imploding. His support has been pretty steady in the 28-30% range in our South Carolina polling so far. But Gingrich has risen from 23% to 34% over the last two weeks, benefiting from declining support for Santorum and also from undecided voters moving into his camp.
It’s clear that the debate Monday night did a lot to help Gingrich’s prospects in the state. 56% of voters say they watched it, and with those folks Gingrich’s lead over Romney is 43-27. Romney still has a 29-22 advantage on Gingrich with those who didn’t tune in.
Gingrich is starting to consolidate his support with some of the more conservative parts of the South Carolina electorate. He has a 50-18 advantage on Romney with Tea Party voters. He’s up 39-23 with those describing themselves as ‘very conservative.’ And he even has a 37-20 advantage with evangelicals.
Gingrich is clearly flying high. The big question now is whether ABC’s interview with his ex-wife tonight will stifle all this momentum. For instance, will his strong support from evangelicals remain intact after they hear accusations that he wanted an ‘open marriage?’
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has now surged ahead of Mitt Romney in the final Rasmussen Reports survey of the South Carolina Republican Primary race with the vote just two days away.
The latest telephone survey of Likely GOP Primary Voters in the state finds Gingrich with 33% support to Romney’s 31%. Two days ago, before the last debate, it was Romney by 14 percentage points.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul now runs third with 15% of the vote, followed by former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum at 11%. Paul’s support is steady while Santorum’s support has dropped five points since Monday. At the beginning of the month, just after Santorum’s strong showing in the Iowa caucuses, he ran second to Romney with 24% of the vote.
Newt was here before, but the the GOP establishment and the establishment media rose up to smite him down. But he’s been left for dead before, and now here he is again.
So what changed?