Gingrich may be in second place right now but the candidate who would have the best chance of beating Romney in South Carolina is Santorum. He edges out Romney as the candidate with the best favorability rating at 63/21. We tested hypothetical head to head match ups between Romney and the other leading Republican candidates in the instance that were some drop outs before the primary. Romney defeats Gingrich handily in such a match, 49-35.  But Santorum runs only slightly behind Romney at 45-40.

There are two things that taken together might make it possible for Santorum to upset Romney in South Carolina. The first is both Gingrich and Perry dropping out.  Gingrich’s voters prefer Santorum over Romney 52-37 and Perry’s do by a 54-41 margin.  Either of them dropping out would give Santorum a big boost.

The other thing that would give Santorum the potential for an upset is a Jim DeMint endorsement. 31% of voters say his nod would make them more likely to vote for a candidate.  That compares to 15% for Lindsey Graham, 14% for Nikki Haley, 13% for Mark Sanford, and 11% for John McCain. There’s no doubt who has the greatest potential to be a king maker in the Palmetto State.