Two new polls today show a close race in South Carolina, the location of the third Republican presidential battleground in the race to replace pro-abortion President Barack Obama. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney holds a solid lead in Florida.
With Iowa and New Hampshire having given the former Massachusetts governor victories in the two traditional early primary election states, Romney now holds a slim two-point lead over Newt Gingrich in South Carolina, according to a new survey from the Insider Advantage polling firm. Conducted for the Augusta Chronicle and The Savannah Morning News newspaper, Romney has 23 percent support, and Gingrich has 21 percent.
After the former Speaker, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has 14 percent, Texas Rep. Ron Paul has 13 percent, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has 7 percent, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry has 5 percent.
The poll follows Romney’s win in New Hampshire, where GOP voters gave him 39 percent of the vote, 16 points ahead of Paul, who finished in second. However, South Carolina is a more socially conservative state where Gingrich and Santorum are expected to do better and one of them is seeking the become the leading candidate among Republicans not enthused about Romney as a potential nominee.
The survey finds Gingrich and Paul fare best with younger South Carolina voters while Romney and Gingrich do best with older voters — with Romney edging him out with all age groups above 45. Men favor Gingrich while Romeny does better with Republican women in the state,possibly because of an endorsement from Gov. Nikki Haley. Republican voters favor Romney while independent voters in South Carolina most support Paul and then Gingrich.
Meanwhile, a Rasmussen Reports poll of the fourth state to vote, Florida, shows Romney is now running away with the race there after extensive advertising in the state.
Romney earns 41% support with Gingrich a distant second at 19%. The new telephone survey of Likely Florida Republican Primary Voters finds Santorum running third with 15% of the vote. Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former Utah Governor Jon Hunstman are next with nine percent (9%) and five percent (5%) support respectively.
Perry runs dead last among primary voters in the Sunshine State with two percent (2%) support. One percent (1%) prefers some other candidate in the race, and eight percent (8%) are undecided.
This Florida survey of 750 Likely Republican Primary Voters was conducted on January 11, 2012 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.