The South Carolina polls are moving in a very clear direction. Polls by Rasmussen, Insider Advantage, and PPP now all show Gingrich in 2nd place to Romney. They show him behind by an average of about 5 points. 27% for Romney, 22% for Gingrich. Santorum and Paul are tied for 3rd place with 15%. Perry and Huntsman are fighting for 5th place with just under 6% of the vote. Momentum is on the side of Gingrich, Huntsman, and Paul. Romney and Santorum are falling. Perry's been staying about level, but due to Huntsman's rise will likely finish in last place.
I have been wrong before and will be wrong again. That said, I have said through-out the race that South Carolina is a must-win for anyone trying to beat Romney. 2nd place means game-over. Even a loss by 1 point to Romney in a close 2nd place finish is game over. Only a win will give anyone but Romney a chance.
Right now the polls show Gingrich as the best suited candidate to defeat Romney. Gingrich's rise is very impressive in several aspects:
- Unlike the rises of Santorum and Perry, Gingrich's rise comes after his fall. I have seen a number of Perry supporters talk about Perry as the rising from the dead; it appears that Perry is actually doing this. To date, the only candidate to rise after a fall was Cain -- and Cain's rise weathered a lot of attacks the 2nd time.
- Gingrich is hungry. If this were a sports match, he would play through, not only a twisted ankle, but a even a fractured one.
- Gingrich's attacks continue to draw supporters to him, rather than away from him. This is very unusual. Typically in politics attacking someone increases the negatives for both candidates and drive voters away from both of them. For Gingrich, his number started to rise in NH after he started attacking. The same is showing true in SC. In part it is because Christian conservatives despite Romney's Bain record. They view it as greed, and even as steeling. They view it as anti-capitalist, and wrong. No matter who (even Rush) who defends Romney, most people in SC despise what he did at Bain, and see Gingrich attacking it as a sign that Gingrich shares their values. Perry had a small 1% uptick in his support when he started attacking Bain, and Santorum started his downfall around the time he chose not to attack Bain. Bain is a losing issue in a GOP primary in SC, and in a general election. Attacking Bain is good politics anywhere, especially in Christian SC.
- Palin -- Gov. Palin is popular in SC, and an endorsement by her would serve to give Gingrich a significant boost. This is already assumed given her husband's support of Gingrich.
- Huntsman continues to take Romney voters
- Conservatives unit behind Gingrich in force. This means going all out for him, and conservative leaders coming to consensus to support him. Right now, conservatives are moving from Santorum to Gingrich, but are somewhat split. Plus a devoted minority is continuing to support Perry. All indications are that Perry will drop out after SC and endorse Romney. It is very important to realize -- and people don't realize this -- that every vote for Perry is a vote the media will use to crown Romney with.