MIAMI (CBSMiami) – South Carolina looks like it is the midst of a full-fledged Newt Gingrich-surge ahead of Saturday’s primary, according to a new tracking poll; setting the stage for all-out war amongst the GOP before the January 31 Florida primary.
According to a new Public Policy Polling tracking poll, Newt Gingrich has pulled ahead of Mitt Romney in the Palmetto State.
The poll found Gingrich’s support at 34 percent compared to Romney’s 28 percent.
In the poll, Ron Paul came in at 15 percent to place third. Rick Santorum, who learned Thursday that he actually won the Iowa caucuses, finished fourth with 14 percent.
Texas governor Rick Perry received 5 percent of the vote, but he dropped out of the race Thursday morning.
PPP found that it wasn’t necessarily a case of Romney’s support eroding, but more likely simply a Gingrich surge based on his most recent debate performance, Perry dropping out of the race, and Santorum’s support beginning to fade.
According to the poll, Gingrich is uniting the more conservative voters in South Carolina, holding a 50-18 percent lead over Romney amongst Tea Party voters.
Gingrich is up by 16 points with voters describing themselves as “very conservative,” and has a 17 point lead amongst evangelicals.
But, ABC News and Gingrich’s second wife may do irreparable harm to his campaign Thursday night during a Nightline interview.
His former wife will level charges that he wanted an open marriage among other claims expected to come from the interview.
Gingrich has already said that he won’t comment about the claims made in the interview.
But, if he allows it to become the narrative of his campaign; he may well have to talk about the charges in a way like Barack Obama did about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in 2008.
Gingrich has momentum heading into Saturday’s South Carolina primary. If he can win, it will give each of the three major candidates one victory heading into Florida’s January 31 primary.
It could also ratchet up the pressure on Santorum to drop out of the race to unify the conservative wings of the party behind Gingrich as an effort to stop Romney, who conservatives will get behind, but would much prefer Gingrich or Santorum.