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Mitt Romney's presidential campaign was dealt a triple whammy today. It turns out he may not have won the Iowa caucuses; the latest count gave Rick Santorum a 34-vote edge, but votes from eight precincts remain uncounted. However, the Iowa story was just the first shoe to drop. Yesterday morning, I glanced at the screen of my classmate's laptop in Individual Taxation and saw that Rick Perry was dropping out of the presidential race. In a final slight at Romney, the Texas governor threw his support behind former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Also today, some new polls showed Gingrich surging in South Carolina, where voters will go to the other kind of polls in just two days to make their choice clear in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Insider Advantage released the results of a survey that found Gingrich leading Romney, 32% to 29%, in the Palmetto state, a 14-point swing from their previous South Carolina survey. Rasmussen has Gingrich ahead by two, 33 to 31 percent, a 16-point swing from where the two candidates stood just a few days ago. Public Policy Polling gives Newt his largest edge, their latest poll shows him leading Romney by six points. (Gingrich has fared better in PPP surveys; in their previous poll, conducted last week, he trailed Romney by only five points.) If you count each poll as a separate development in the campaign, then I guess it's actually a quintuple whammy for the guy who looked unstoppable less than a week ago.
It wasn't all bad news for the former Massachusetts governor today; he still leads Gingrich by seven points in a POLITICO survey of likely South Carolina voters taken by the Tarrance Group, and an NBC News/Marist poll has him leading by double digits, 34% to 24% for Gingrich. The combined effect of these polls, however, is this: Romney's lead over Gingrich in the RCP average of South Carolina polls has been cut to 1.2 percentage points; yesterday, that lead was eight points.
Gingich has momentum, but he's also got a lot of liabilities that have scared off Republican voters in Iowa and New Hampshire; Romney has organization, money and a commanding lead in national polls, but he no longer has a clear path to the nomination. I have six final exams to study for. Guess where my attention will be focused Saturday evening.