Saturday, January 21, 2012

Polling Report: Special South Carolina Edition

What a week this has been for the GOP Pack o' Presidential Potentials. We started out with Mitt Romney strolling leisurely toward the nomination with a big lead, and today finds the contenders in an absolute dogfight (but will the dog hunt?).

Newt Gingrich's well-received performance in this week's debates has given him a new life. Rick Santorum can now claim to have won the Iowa caucuses. Rick Perry is now free to take Texas out of the union if he so desires. And Romney? He's hit a bit of a rough patch on the way to the nomination, which I still think he'll win. It just might take a bit longer for him to claim it.

The latest RealClearPolitics polling average, including the latest PPP tracking poll, has Newt surging to the top of the pile, which spells real trouble for Romney. Paul will win his 15%, and despite an endorsement from many conservatives, Rick Santorum will be lucky to approach 15%, as some of his voters move to Newt. With Rick Perry out of the race, the real question is where do his supporters go. Again, I'm thinking Newt.

South Carolina is now critical for Romney. I said after New Hampshire that he could end the whole race with a showing above 40% and could claim inevitability with more than 30% in SC. Now, that's not necessarily the case. Mitt could get 30% and lose to Gingrich, or only win by 1 or 2 points. That would be a win, but he needs to improve, not regress. If he loses, or loses steam, Florida would be in play. Santorum could drop out, with his voters moving in larger numbers to Newt. Conservatives would be emboldened. Democrats would jump for joy.

My predictions: An Upset Special

Gingrich        36%
Romney        34%
Paul              15%
Santorum      14%

Santorum drops out. The race in Florida tightens. Gingrich and Romney duke it out through Super Tuesday in March. More GOP moderates publicly endorse Romney in order to save the party. Chris Christie gets even more bombastic in his support for Mitt (is that possible? healthy?). You join in at www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives and follow me on Twitter @rigrundfest.

Isn't this fun?

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