Call it the case of the rising Texan and plunging Pennsylvanian.
Here’s how GOP presidential hopefuls fared in a second round of South Carolina polls released Friday. (The fine print: Two sets of polls from Rasmussen Reports, Public Policy Polling and American Research Group have been released in the past week -- one before and after the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday):
Winner: Ron Paul
Who cares if the Texas congressman has made one announced campaign visit in South Carolina since finishing second in the New Hampshire primary. He’s got the momentum, gaining 22 percentage points combined in the three polls after his Granite State game-changer. Still, gaining all that support has only moved him from fourth to third in the Palmetto pecking order. Paul’s small-government speak is surely a hit in South Carolina but will it be enough to get a higher finish on the podium? We’ll see. He reportedly returns to the state on Sunday for a final push after raising money back home.
Not bad: Newt Gingrich
The former House speaker and one-time South Carolina poll leader has taken a firm hold of second place behind Romney. Gingrich gained five percentage points in the past week, not surge -- but not bad either for a guy who finished fourth in New Hampshire. Gingrich is banking on his attacks on Romney’s Bain Capital days, record as Massachusetts governor and ability to speak French to help his numbers. He might be turning off some voters all the Bain questions, but a real boost could come after the debates, where Gingrich has won over voters.
Loser: Rick Santorum
So much for the Iowa bounce. Santorum was second with Gingrich in South Carolina polls after his near-Hawkeye win. Then he fell to fifth in New Hampshire and so did his numbers. The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania dropped 30 percentage points in the S.C. polls in the past week and is the fourth-place candidate at the moment. He could use a big swing in support. Can evangelicals save his day? Could the Tea Party look past some of those earmarks he approved while on the Hill? Could sweater vest lovers band together?
Mitt Romney lost a little support -- 2 percentage points among the three polls -- but he kept his spot at the top of the pyramid in all three polls. Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman have stayed consistently in single digits. Time to say “uncle,” fellas?
Bonus winner: Tim Tebow
More South Carolina voters said they like Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (76%) than the top GOP candidate (Romney 57%) in Public Policy Polling’s new poll.