The Republican presidential race is tightening in South Carolina, where Mitt Romney’s lead over Newt Gingrich is shrinking in the final days before Saturday’s primary, according to a new CNN/Time/ORC International poll. Romney continues to maintain a strong lead in Florida, which holds the next primary on Jan. 31.
The South Carolina poll found that 33 percent of respondents are backing Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, compared to 23 percent for Gingrich, the former House speaker. That’s a shift in Gingrich’s favor from a Jan. 4-5 poll when Romney was ahead of Gingrich, 37 percent to 18 percent.
The poll put former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum in third place with 16 percent, followed by Texas Representative Ron Paul at 13 percent and Texas Governor Rick Perry at 6 percent.
In the final days, the race is solidifying. A full 57 percent of voters say they have definitely made up their minds whom to vote for.
The race could be tightening even further, since much of the polling was conducted before Gingrich’s strong performance in Monday night’s debate and before former vice presidential nominee and Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin made statements that were supportive of Gingrich.
Romney is taking notice of his dwindling lead, beginning to go on the offensive against Gingrich. Romney’s surrogates have been hammering Gingrich for being “unreliable.” In South Carolina today, Romney criticized Gingrich for taking credit for jobs that were created while he was working with President Ronald Reagan.
Gingrich, for his part, has been pressuring Romney to release his tax returns. His super PAC recently released a video attacking Romney for his work at Bain Capital.
Romney’s lead is stronger in Florida, where the CNN/Time/ORC International poll found he had support from 43 percent of respondents. Santorum followed far behind at 19 percent, followed by Gingrich at 18 percent, Paul at 9 percent, and Perry at 2 percent.
Both polls were conducted Jan. 13-17. The poll of 391 likely Florida primary voters has a margin of error of 5 percent. The poll of 505 likely South Carolina primary voters has a margin of error of 4.5 percent.Shira Schoenberg can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @shiraschoenberg.