South Carolina traditionally votes third in the presidential primary process. But according to the tentative and already-released 2016 Republican primary schedule, the Palmetto State is apparently holding its elections much latter than expected next year.
Nevertheless, given the historic importance of the state's quadrennial primary, Townhall (in coordination with our partner Gravis Marketing), sponsored an in-state, South Carolina survey in order to begin polling perceptions of the burgeoning 2016 field.
"The former governor of Massachusetts leads a large pack of potential Republican presidential nominees in the Jan. 21-22 Townhall/Gravis poll of 831 likely Republican and Independent voters," Neil W. McCabe reports. See the full graphic below:
A second survey was also conducted by Townhall/Gravis:
For obvious reasons, virtually every presumed GOP hopeful does better without Mitt Romney in the running. But perhaps the most striking difference between the former and latter sample is that when the former GOP nominee is taken off the list, nearly one-fifth of primary goers become undecided. This five percentage uptick suggests that if Romney ultimately bucks the spotlight in 2016 -- a decision that will presumably dissatisfy most Republicans -- candidates at the tail-end of the popularity spectrum could find some much-needed wiggle-room to rise.
All in all, however, the race is exceedingly close with or without Mitt Romney in it. But make no mistake: Most GOP hopefuls are praying he stays out.