The final PPP poll of South Carolina -- possibly the last poll of the Palmetto State that we'll see, and as of this morning the only telephone poll that includes interviews from yesterday, with voters who had seen the news about Rick Perry withdrawing and endorsing Newt Gingrich, the comments from Gingrich's ex-wife Marianne, and the Thursday night debate -- shows everything coming up Newt:
Newt Gingrich heads into South Carolina election day as the clear front runner in the state: he's now polling at 37% to 28% for Mitt Romney, 16% for Rick Santorum, and 14% for Ron Paul.
Gingrich's lead has actually increased in the wake of his ex-wife's controversial interview with ABC. Although one night poll results should always be interpreted with caution, he led the final night of the field period by a 40-26 margin. One thing that continues to work to his advantage are the debates. 60% of primary voters report having watched the one last night, and Gingrich has a 46-23 lead with those folks.
The other reason his ex-wife's interview isn't causing him much trouble is that there's a lot of skepticism about it. Only 31% of voters say they think her accusations are true while 35% think they are false and 34% are unsure. 51% of voters say that they have 'no concerns' about what came out in the interview.
But PPP's Tom Jensen adds:
Usually when we poll in the closing days before an election and find someone ahead by 9 points we'll say with a pretty high degree of confidence that person's going to win. I'm not comfortable saying that about South Carolina. A primary election with a lot of new news in the closing days for voters to absorb is fertile ground for a final result that's at odd with the polls... Gingrich will probably win tomorrow- but there's a higher than normal chance for a surprise given everything that's gone down in the last 48 hours.
A surprising break in Romney's favor seems unlikely at this point; the only Romney victory scenario that makes sense is a late bounce for Santorum that draws disproportionately from Gingrich, and there's no data to suggest that this is happening. But it's worth noting that expectations are such that it would be devastating to Newt's candidacy if he somehow doesn't win. Romney, who has plenty of money and a big head start in Florida, will live to fight another day (and, indeed, will remain the favorite to win the nomination) no matter what happens today; the same can't be said for Gingrich.
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