First, the new set of numbers out of the Palmetto State:
With three days to go until the first-in-the south primary, Mitt Romney remains in the lead in the Palmetto State, but according to a new poll, his advantage over Newt Gingrich is rapidly shrinking. 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%.
If you dig into the poll itself, its results are even more troubling for Romney. This survey was conducted January 13 -17, meaning that only about 25 percent of the results was gathered after Monday's debate, which Newt won. If this data set shows a faltering lead for Romney even before the debate took place, I'd imagine that polls being taken yesterday and today will show an even greater erosion of support. We'll know soon enough; several new surveys are set to drop tomorrow. Even though the same CNN poll still shows a commanding Romney lead in Florida (he's up 43-19 over Santorum, with Gingrich in third), the surest sign that his camp is nervous is that they've gone back on offense against Newt:
After ignoring former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for three weeks, Mitt Romney's presidential campaign is renewing its assault on Newt Gingrich days before the South Carolina primary. Romney's campaign released a new web video and microsite attacking the former Speaker of the House as an "undisciplined leader" featuring former Rep. Susan Molinari recounting her time serving in the House with Gingrich. The strategy of allowing Gingrich to fall under his own weight has been abandoned. Now Romney is trying to crush his rival.
Here's the new ad, which is almost identical to another one starring former Congressman and Senator Jim Talent of Missouri:
As Carol noted earlier, it also seems as if Gingrich's sharp criticisms of Romney's private equity business model might be harder to explain in light of this revelation:
Attacks aside, Romney isn't helping himself by fanning on obvious opportunities to blast President Obama and cavalierly dismissing his six-figure speaking fees as "not very much" money. Before we leave the subject of polling, check out Jay Cost's must-read analysis of Obama's recent uptick in job approval. Spoiler: It's not the happy news for Democrats it might seem to be at first blush.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography