The latest Rasmussen Reports survey shows Mitt Romney holding on to his lead with 30%, but the real story is that Newt Gingrich who two weeks ago was at 16%, has pulled nearly even with Mitt Romney and now has 27% of the vote.
While Romney’s numbers remain virtually unchanged from two weeks ago, the other story aside from Newt’s surge, is that even though a bloc of evangelical leaders recently voted to endorse Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania Senator seems to be wearing thin on South Carolinians as he backslides going from 21% to his current third place showing at 15%.
As for the remaining candidates in the race Texas Congressman Ron Paul holds steady at 13% support from likely primary voters, and Texas Governor Rick Perry remains in last place with four percent 4%.
According to Rasmussen, another 4% like some other candidate in the race, and 7% are undecided.
Adding to the good news for Gingrich is the fact that these poll numbers were taken before Wednesday evening’s, late night, semi-endorsement of Gingrich in South Carolina by Sarah Palin.
As good as the news seems to be for Gingrich in the short term, the Rasmussen poll does not show any significant signs of long term good news for Newt.
Nationally approximately 70% of all Republicans now expect Romney to ultimately be the nominee and Mitt continues to hold a sizeable lead in Florida, the important Southern primary that will take place on January 31st, ten days after South Carolina holds its contest.
All of this suggests that Romney is still headed for the nomination but clearly, he is not assured of smooth sailing across the finish line, and under the circumstances, if Newt can defeat Romney in the Palmetto State primary, it may indeed turn the nomination contest in to an entirely new contest. At least until Florida.
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