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ESTABLISHMENT FAVORITES BATTLE FOR SUPREMACY IN SOUTH CAROLINA

Former U.S. Speaker Newt Gingrich has said repeatedly that South Carolina would wind up being his “firewall …” and now it’s looking as though the state’s intellectually incurious electorate may just prove the establishment Republican right.

A second poll taken just three days before Palmetto State voters cast their “First in the South” primary ballots has confirmed that the ten-point lead former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (another establishment Republican) once enjoyed over Gingrich has vanished.

According to Rasmussen Reports latest survey, Gingrich is now drawing the support of 33 percent of likely GOP primary voters in South Carolina compared to 31 percent for Romney. That gap is well within the poll’s margin of error, but the momentum is clearly working for Gingrich and against Romney – who had a ten point lead in four separate polls conducted last week.

“The new findings come following Gingrich’s strong performance in a debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Monday night,” Rasmussen’s pollsters noted. “Sarah Palin also signaled support for Gingrich which could have a significant impact in South Carolina.”

The Rasmussen results come on the heels of an Insider Advantage poll released late Wednesday which also showed Gingrich enjoying a narrow lead over Romney.

Meanwhile, both polls show U.S. Rep. Ron Paul solidly in third place in South Carolina with the support of 15 percent of likely primary voters, ahead of former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum who clocked in at 11 percent in both surveys.

Obviously, these surveys were conducted prior to Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropping out of the race. More importantly, they were also conducted prior to Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne Gingrich, taping an interview with ABC News in which she alleged that her ex-husband asked her for an “open marriage” so that he could carry on an affair with the woman who is now his current wife.

Will those allegations hurt Gingrich’s South Carolina momentum? According to a non-scientific FITS poll, 56 percent of our readers say “no.”

Rasmussen’s poll surveyed 750 likely primary voters on Wednesday. It’s margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points.

RASMUSSEN SOUTH CAROLINA POLL

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