I know you guys are sick of polls, but look on the “bright side”: If this one holds on Saturday, you won’t have to pay attention to another poll for four or five months.

Feel better?

A CNN/Time/ORC International poll indicates that 33% of likely South Carolina Republican primary voters say they are backing Romney, with 23% supporting Gingrich. The former Massachusetts governor’s 10 point advantage over the former House speaker is down from a 19 point lead two weeks ago. According to the survey, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is at 16%, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is at 13%, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry stands at 6%…

“Gingrich appears to be the only candidate with momentum as the race in South Carolina enters the final few days,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Support for Romney and Santorum appears to be slipping, and Paul and Perry seem flat. Gingrich, however, has gained ground and cut Romney’s lead in half since early January.”

“All of Gingrich’s increased support comes among tea party movement supporters, where he’s at 31% support, up ten points from early January,” adds Holland. “That suggests that Sarah Palin’s remarks urging South Carolina voters to choose Gingrich may have a receptive audience.”

Interesting! Except, as CNN notes, “Nearly all the interviews were conducted before the Palin’s Tuesday night remarks and before Monday night’s presidential debate.” The poll was taken from January 13 through the 17, which means if there is Newtmentum post-debate and post-Palin appearance on Hannity, very little of it is actually showing up in the numbers yet. Good news if you’re worried about the fact that Gingrich still trails by double digits in this snapshot, but not so good if you’re trying to draw any firm conclusions about the actual state of the race from this poll.

How thrilled is Newt by Palin’s endorsement last night, by the way? This thrilled:

“Gov. Palin is somebody who I think was a very good reform governor. She was extraordinarily effective negotiating with big oil. She did a good job in the state of Alaska. I think she’s a very articulate leader of the tea party conservative movement. I was honored and delighted last night when she said if she were in South Carolina, she’d vote for Newt Gingrich. I hope everybody who likes her decides she’s right. And I hope they vote for me.

“Certainly, she’s one of the people I’d call on for advice. I would ask her to consider taking a major role in the next administration if I’m president, but nothing has been discussed of any kind. And it wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss it at this time.

Earlier he told reporters that her backing is “a signal to every conservative that the one conservative vote that’s effective is to Newt Gingrich.” True enough, but that makes me wonder: Why exactly did she back Newt? Seems odd for a crusader against crony capitalism to opt for the guy who made seven figures from Freddie Mac as a “historian,” and it’s odd for a social conservative as esteemed as Palin to prefer the thrice-divorced Gingrich to the famously passionate pro-life crusader Santorum. Wasn’t Newt also the guy who scolded her back in 2009 when she endorsed Doug Hoffman instead of Gingrich’s candidate, Dede Scozzafava? If Palin’s making a simple electability calculation here, i.e. that Gingrich still has a shot in South Carolina of catching Romney whereas Santorum really doesn’t, then fair enough. But that’s a self-fulfilling prophesy in her case: If she made a strong push for Santorum over Gingrich, that could tilt tea-party votes his way and suddenly make him the last best hope of the Not Romney universe.

Newt told Wolf Blitzer earlier this afternoon that “I think by Saturday we’ll be ahead and depending on how many conservatives come home, we could be ahead by a pretty comfortable margin,” which will make a nice soundbite bookend next week with his comment last month that he’s likely to be the nominee. Exit question via Ross Douthat: Was Gingrich actually Romney’s greatest ally in this campaign? His Bain attacks succeeded in convincing conservatives to finally say something nice about Mitt, and his ability to suck up media oxygen from Santorum prevented Romney from having to face a challenge from a candidate with deep blue-collar and social-conservative appeal. Ah well. Too late now.