Thursday may have been one of the most eventful days of the Republican campaign so far, but the state of the race in South Carolina didn't change much. Newt Gingrich continues to lead Mitt Romney by 6 points, 35-29, with Ron Paul and Rick Santorum each tied for third at 15%.
Revelations from the Marianne Gingrich interview haven't taken a toll on Newt's image yet. For the first time in our South Carolina tracking this month his favorability is better than Romney's, with 53% of voters holding a positive opinion of him compared to 51% for his chief competitor.
Gingrich's lead with evangelicals held steady today at 40-22 over Romney. He's also doing well with Tea Party voters (46-21), registered Republicans (38-30), voters describing themselves as very conservative (41-21), men (39-27), and voters in the Upstate (36-25).
Romney is leading with non-evangelicals (39-30), independents (30-26), moderates (44-23), and women (32-31). The problem for him is that all of those groups are a minority within the South Carolina Republican electorate.
Both Gingrich (81%) and Romney (79%) have supporters who are pretty firmly committed to them. 81% of Paul's supporters say they'll definitely vote for him as well. Santorum has the voters most likely to abandon him for one of the more viable contenders in the final 36 hours, with 32% of them saying they could end up voting for someone else. Gingrich is the second choice of 45% of Santorum voters open to changing their minds, compared to 22% for Romney.
Things look good for Newt. He has the lead, his support seems to have more room to grow than Romney's, and so far he's not seeing any ill effects from his ex-wife going to the media. It's important to note though that many average South Carolina voters- the non-political junkies- will get their first exposure to the Marianne Gingrich story in the morning paper or on the news sometime tomorrow. That may or may not end up having a big impact on his numbers. But it's important to keep in mind.
Methodological note: Rick Perry, who dropped out, and Buddy Roemer, who's not on the ballot in South Carolina, were both included as response options for the Wednesday interviews of this poll. They were not included in Thursday's interviews, and we reallocated respondents who chose them on Wednesday night to their second choices.
Full results here