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Saturday, January 07, 2012

South Carolina Polls

South Carolina polls, released yesterday, crystallized what we already knew. Mitt Romney is the heavy favorite for the nomination, Rick Santorum is experiencing a massive surge, and Newt Gingrich is pulling his best Humpty Dumpty impression, which, if you've ever seen the rotund Gingrich wobble around, is unsurprising.

The polls--conducted by CNN/Time, Rassmusen, and the American Research Group--basically agree with each other on these developments (interestingly, Rasmussen has a 3-point bump for Gingrich). I've averaged them for you. In those three polls, one conducted late November/early December and the next conducted on January 4/5:

Romney rose from 21.67 percent to 31.67.
Santorum surged from a meager 2 percent of support to 22.
Gingrich, the once solid leader of the state, sank from 30 to 20.

Therefore, the current South Carolina Standings are:
1. Romney--32
2. Santorum--22
3. Gingrich--20
4. Ron Paul--11 (Up from 6)
5. Rick Perry--4 (Down from 8)
6. Jon Huntsman--2 (which doubled his support)

What this tells us for each candidate:
Romney--Though the 8-vote Iowa margin should be rather trivial, he still won the state, and that plays well. We know he'll win Tuesday's New Hampshire Primary, and it could be with as much as 45 percent of the vote. It's unlikely that a New Hampshire win will decrease his momentum heading into January 21's South Carolina Primary. Therefore, it is likely Romney holds his lead and wins South Carolina. He will have then won the first three primaries. Thus, he's trying to hold off Santorum for two more states. If he does: game over.

Everyone else--Because of this clear path to victory, they need to take Romney down. Like I said yesterday, they must enact the "balance of power." If they can make Romney's win in New Hampshire look like a loss, Santorum and Gingrich remain alive. They need Romney to place down in the low 30s in New Hampshire. Anything under 30 (unlikely but possible) would be an enormous victory for the anti-Romney crusade, the success of which Newt Gingrich guarantees. That's why you see the Gingrich camp considering re-airing McCain's attack ads against Romney from 2008, and that's why you can expect Santorum to hammer Romney tonight on his past pro-choice stances. And you can bet Huntsman, Perry, and Paul will all get their licks in, too. Tonight, it's Romney against the world.

All the more reason why tonight's New Hampshire debate (9:00 on ABC) is must-see TV.

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