South Carolina: Gingrich 33%, Romney 31%, Paul 15%
Thursday, January 19, 2012
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.
Texas Governor Rick Perry continues to run last with two percent (2%) support. He has dropped out of the race today and endorsed Gingrich. One percent (1%) of likely primary voters like some other candidate in the contest, and six percent (6%) remain undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
The new findings come following Gingrich’s strong performance in a debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Monday night. Sarah Palin also signaled support for Gingrich which could have a significant impact in South Carolina. Two years ago, her endorsement of Nikki Haley transformed the race for governor. Ironically, now that Haley is governor, she has endorsed Romney while Palin is backing Gingrich for the moment.
The candidates will debate again in South Carolina this evening.
The race for the Republican presidential nomination is now nearly even nationally with Romney still on top with 30% support but Gingrich just three points behind at 27%. Santorum who was running second has dropped to 15%.
Nearly one-in-three primary voters (31%) in South Carolina say they still could change their minds, and it’s unclear how Perry’s withdrawal, the growing dispute over Romney’s taxes or a televised interview this evening with one of Gingrich’s former wives might impact the contest. Six percent (6%) still haven’t made a choice yet. Sixty-two percent (62%) now are certain of how they will vote on Saturday, including nearly 70% of those supporting Gingrich, Romney, Santorum and Paul. Just 37% of Perry voters have made up their minds at this point.
Gingrich holds a two-to-one lead over Romney among both Very Conservative and Tea Party Republicans in the state. The former Massachusetts governor holds a far more modest lead among Somewhat Conservative voters and those who are not members of the grassroots movement.
Evangelical Christians prefer Gingrich by 37% to 21% margin, with Paul and Santorum at 16% and 15% respectively. Romney leads among all other religious groups.
Despite continuing criticism of Romney’s record as a businessman, 62% of all South Carolina primary voters now feel his business record is primarily a reason to vote for him, while just 22% view it as chiefly a reason to vote against him. Sixteen percent (16%) are not sure.