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Romney Holds Narrow Lead Over Gingrich in S.C.

Romney Holds Narrow Lead Over Gingrich in S.C.

By Kyle Adams - January 12, 2012


Mitt Romney holds a slim two-point lead over Newt Gingrich in South Carolina, according to a new poll conducted the day after the former Massachusetts governor won the New Hampshire primary.

According to an Insider Advantage poll conducted for The Augusta Chronicle and The Savannah Morning News, Romney has 23 percent support, and Gingrich has 21 percent. 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.

Romney won New Hampshire with 39 percent of the vote, 16 points ahead of Paul, who finished in second. Romney owns a vacation home in the Granite State and was the longtime favorite there. However, in South Carolina he faces a more conservative electorate. He placed fourth in the state's primary in his first presidential run in 2008.

Gingrich, who finished a distant fourth in New Hampshire, has slammed Romney in recent days over his tenure as CEO of Bain Capital.

"Crony capitalism, where people pay each other off at the expense of the rest of the country, is not free enterprise," Gingrich said in South Carolina on Wednesday. "And raising questions about that is not wrong." 

The super PAC supporting him, Winning Our Future, has labeled Romney a "corporate raider" and released a 30-minute documentary about Romney's tenure at Bain on Wednesday. The super PAC, bolstered by a $5 million contribution from casino owner Sheldon Adelson, plans to spend $3.4 million initially on radio and TV advertising in South Carolina.

Romney criticized attacks from Republicans on his private equity background during his victory speech in New Hampshire on Tuesday night, saying it is a "mistake" to "put free enterprise on trial."

And for its part, the Romney side plans to spend big in South Carolina as well. Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney super PAC, recently made a $6 million ad buy in South Carolina and Florida. That super PAC (along with Ron Paul's campaign) played a pivotal role in knocking Gingrich down after he rose to the top of national and state polls late last year. In the wake of the onslaught, Gingrich finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses, which Romney won by eight votes over Santorum.

Romney currently leads by 9.3 percent in the RCP Average in South Carolina.

For this poll, Insider Advantage surveyed 726 likely South Carolina Republican primary voters on Jan. 11.

Kyle Adams can be reached at kadams@realclearpolitics.com.

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