Poll: Gingrich with a slim lead over Romney in SC, hours before primary

Paul Conner Executive Editor
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GREENVILLE, S.C. — A Clemson University Palmetto poll released Friday shows Newt Gingrich with a slim lead over Mitt Romney in South Carolina just a day before the polls open.

Gingrich was the choice of 32 percent of respondents, with Romney taking 26 percent. Ron Paul was in third at 11 percent, and Santorum was fourth with 9 percent. The margin of error was 4.73 percentage points.

But there is a caveat to the results. Polling started Jan. 13, and the results were adjusted Wednesday and Thursday, so the poll may not fully account for Thursday’s fireworks, including Rick Perry’s decision to drop out, new revelations about Gingrich’s former marriage and CNN’s fiery debate.

“We expect a reaction by the electorate to the personal revelations about Gingrich to be registered on Saturday, however, we do not think it will be substantial enough to erase the lead Gingrich has over Romney,” Clemson University political scientist Dave Woodard said in a statement.

The two Clemson professors also said the poll pushes back against the common wisdom that South Carolinians are looking primarily for someone to defeat President Barack Obama.

“Much has been made of the ‘electability’ issue of the candidates, but in our poll the response: ‘He has the best chance of beating President Barack Obama’” was the fourth choice of voters, after “‘He has better ideas for strengthening the economy,’” said Clemson political scientist Bruce Ransom.

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