According to an American Research Group survey released Saturday morning, 40% of people likely to vote in South Carolina’s GOP contest say they are backing the former House speaker, with 26% supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 18% backing Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and 13% supporting former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. …
The survey indicates that Gingrich grabs about half the vote among self-described tea party movement supporters, far ahead of the rest of the field. Among those who say they are not tea party supporters, Gingrich is at 33%, Romney 31%, Paul 22% and Santorum 11%.
Gingrich leads Romney among men 38% to 25%, followed by Paul with 21% and Santorum at 13%. Among women, Gingrich leads Romney 42% to 26%, followed by Paul with 16%, and Santorum with 13%. That number may be surprising, following the broadcast Thursday night of an allegation from Gingrich’s ex-wife, Marianne, that the former House speaker offered her a choice of an open marriage or divorce when he revealed to her he was having an affair with the woman he later made his third wife.
Gingrich said the claim by his second wife was false, but the story made major headlines, and an angry Gingrich chastised CNN for starting off Thursday night’s debate with a question about his ex-wife’s allegations. Gingrich’s response elicited a standing ovation from the audience.
Gingrich also leads among self-identified Republicans, although Ron Paul and Mitt Romney both best him among independents and Democrats.
This particular poll was conducted Thursday and Friday — half before and half after the debate in which Newt Gingrich caustically verbally accosted moderator John King for opening with a question about Marianne Gingrich’s accusations against him. A poll conducted by the same firm Tuesday and Wednesday showed Gingrich and Romney neck-and-neck. That suggests that Gingrich might actually have received a boost from his ex-wife’s allegations and his handling of them. Some pundits predicted this — most notably Sarah Palin, who claimed the media overplayed its hand against Newt by marketing Marianne Gingrich’s revelations to the masses. Frustration at the MSM for the timing and handling of The Ex-Wife Interview is understandable — but should that automatically have translated into support for Gingrich? I still argue no, especially given that his debate performance Thursday was not particularly impressive notwithstanding his fiery fury at CNN for asking about the hottest news of the day.
Ed reminds me that, in 2008, American Research Group predicted that Mike Huckabee would win South Carolina, which turned out to be not true, so perhaps this poll should be taken with a grain of salt. At this point, any poll purporting to predict South Carolina shouldn’t be taken too seriously. So much has happened this week alone that it’s surely difficult for any poll to pick up all the movement that must be occurring in the state as a result. As AP summarized yesterday, Newt Gingrich will probably win South Carolina, but anything could happen so expect the unexpected.
For those of you who, like me, have felt nearly as many reservations about Newt Gingrich as about Mitt Romney, this piece by Mark Steyn might help. Oh, it’ll confirm your reservations — but it’ll also awaken a sliver of hope that, should he be the nominee, he could maybe — just maybe — beat Obama. Steyn wrote the piece before the Iowa caucuses, but it still seems to accurately capture Gingrich. As has been often repeated, all of our candidates are flawed — but any would be better than Obama.