Clemson poll: Gingrich leads Romney by 6 points

ashain@thestate.comJanuary 20, 2012 

A new poll from Clemson University has Newt Gingrich holding a 32 percent to 26 percent lead over Mitt Romney.

Three new polls released Thursday and Friday also have Gingrich leading in South Carolina over Romney, while a fourth poll showed the former House Speaker received a boost from his debate performance Monday.

In the Clemson poll, Ron Paul came in third at 11 percent and Rick Santorum was fourth at 9 percent. The poll found 20 percent of GOP voters were undecided.

The poll was taken after Gingrich's performance in Monday's debate where he was seen as a winner while Romney fumbled answers. But the impact of an interview with Gingrich's second wife aired Thursday had not hit voters when the poll was conducted.

"We expect a reaction by the electorate to the personal revelations about Gingrich to be registered on Saturday, however, we do not think they will be substantial enough to erase the slim lead Newt Gingrich has over Mitt Romney," poll authors wrote.

But that might not matter to many S.C. voters anyway.

“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,' " Clemson political scientist Bruce Ransom said in a statement.

Gingrich held leads of one to four points in polls from Public Policy Polling, Rasmussen and American Research Group with the former House speaker getting 33 to 35 percent of the vote. Romney was receiving 29 to 32 percent in the polls.

In a poll released Thursday by NBC/Marist, Romney has 34 percent over Gingrich's 24 percent in a poll taken before and after Monday's debate. Before, Romney led Gingrich by 37 percent to 22 percent. After, Romney's post-debate lead over Gingrich shrank 31 percent to 26 percent.

In addition to his strong showing at Monday’s debate, Gingrich received a push from Sarah Palin, who said she would vote for him in the South Carolina primary. Palin’s husband, Todd, formally threw his support behind Gingrich.

The Clemson poll of 429 likely voters GOP primary voters had a plus or minus 4.73 percent margin of error.

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