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Newt Gingrich is the candidate with momentum today. On the strength of his widely agreed-upon debate win on Tuesday, Gingrich has surpassed Mitt Romney in two of the three polls major over the past two days:

Politico: Romney 37%, Gingrich 30%
Insider Advantage: Gingrich 32%, Romney 29%
Rasmussen: Gingrich 33%, Romney 31%

The only thing keeping Gingrich behind Romney in the South Carolina Composite right now is his average 10 point deficit spread versus the former Governor in the other six polls taken over the previous week.

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It seems the negative attacks perceived by many as leftist and anti-capitalist from candidates considered conservative–Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry–have backfired tremendously as Mitt Romney’s lead has grown in South Carolina.

In successive polls completed over the past five days, Romney has led each one with 28% (1/12, Rasmussen), 29% (1/13, PPP), 33% (1/15, Monmouth), and 32% (1/15, Insider Advantage). Further, the gap between Romney and Gingrich has moved significantly (in the same poll order) 7, 5, 11, 11 points.

Romney has the momentum while Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry likely do not have enough time to change South Carolina strategy. The damage may be done and the Republican nominee will be chosen.

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The two most recent polls in South Carolina have agreed. Mitt Romney is clearly ahead of Newt Gingrich, as his lead exceeds the margin of error in both the Rasmussen and Public Policy polls.

Looking back at the trend chart to the left, you can see a distinct change beginning with the January 6th Composite, immediately following an Iowa Caucus that produced a surprisingly good showing by Rick Santorum, an awful result by Newt Gingrich, and a win by Romney after virtually ignoring the state.

Another shift is clear beginning January 12, as Santorum’s momentum was nearly decimated in New Hampshire and Ron Paul finish in a solid second. Paul seemingly took some fringe Santorum supporters in South Carolina.

Today it appears there are three races in the Palmetto State. Romney and Gingrich for first, Santorum and Paul for third, and Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman for who drops out first. Based on the current PD Composite, a Romney win in this heavily evangelical state seems surprisingly probable.

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On the strength of the latest Rasmussen poll, Ron Paul has made the most significant move in the updated South Carolina Composite Poll. Paul’s 3.6 point rise came largely at the expense of Rick Santorum, whose poll numbers are plummeting.

After a high showing of 24 percent in a January 5 Rasmussen poll, Santorum has polled at 19, 14, and 16 percent in PPP (1/7), Insider Advantage (1/11), and Rasmussen (1/12) polls, with the latter two polls completed over the past two days.
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The initial Political Derby Composite: South Carolina demonstrates a tight, three horse race as Mitt Romney, Rick Santorm, and Newt Gingrich are within 6.5 points of each other.

Polling data in South Carolina is quite a bit lighter than it was in Iowa and New Hampshire which could lead to more variation, meaning the Palmetto state is truly a toss-up today.

South Carolina’s record of picking the nominee is well known. As such, it is interesting to see that the South Carolina Composite trends are similar to the national race. Romney has consistently sat in the 25 percent range, Ron Paul in the 10-15 percent range, Gingrich had a huge surge, but has since cooled, and Santorm suddenly spiked, putting him in the running.