Politics

Two new polls: Paul surges in South Carolina, Santorum slumps

Steven Nelson Associate Editor

Texas Rep. Ron Paul has broken through in South Carolina, according to two polls released Friday that show a dramatic increase in support for the libertarian favorite just eight days before the state’s first-in-the-south Jan. 21 primary.

Paul polled at 20 percent in a statewide poll of South Carolina voters released Friday by American Research Group. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney led with 29 percent and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was just behind him at 25 percent.

The poll’s margin of error was 4 percentage points, putting Romney and Gingrich in a statistical dead heat.

The poll indicates a substantial growth in support for Paul in what was previously thought of as a state where he would perform poorly. ARG had found support for Paul eleven points lower, at only nine percent, in a poll conducted one week earlier.

It also indicates a tightening race between Gingrich and Romney — perhaps reflective of tough attack ads aired by Gingrich and the super PAC supporting his candidacy that criticize Romney directly.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was in fifth place in the poll, at seven percent, behind Texas Gov. Rick Perry‘s nine percent. Santorum experienced a sharp seventeen-point decline from the group’s previous poll.

A different poll, released Friday by Rasmussen Reports, also indicated an uptick in support for Paul in South Carolina, showing him tied for third place with Santorum at 16 percent. A Rasumussen poll conducted one week earlier had Paul five points lower and Santorum eight points higher.

According to the Rasmussen poll, Romney leads with 28 percent support, followed by Gingrich at 21 percent.

Opponents of Romney view South Carolina as perhaps the last opportunity to stall the current front-runner, who has already won the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Santorum finished only a few votes behind Romney in Iowa, but his momentum in South Carolina now appears to be fading. Paul placed third in Iowa and second in New Hampshire.

Paul supporters have organized a “super brochure” project, aiming to educate voters in South Carolina with information about their candidate. The project — which has also targeted voters in Nevada, Iowa and other states — has made contact with hundreds of thousands of Palmetto State voters.

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