POLITICS
01/21/2012 08:32 am ET Updated Jan 21, 2012

Mitt Romney South Carolina Primary Outlook

Ahead of Saturday's primary election in South Carolina, Mitt Romney called the contest an "uphill battle."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich made a late surge in the polls and the fate of the fate of the race is anything, but certain.

HuffPost's Elise Foley reports:

Despite a crush of spending by his campaign and superPACs supporting him, it began to look as if a Romney victory in the Palmetto State would be elusive -- on the same day that progressive political action committee American Bridge pointed out a Romney ad with text reading "On Saturday South Carolina Picks a President."

Romney supporters said they were sure that he would win the nomination on Saturday, and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has endorsed the candidate, said in Gilbert that she has a "gut feeling" the primary would go his way. Romney seemed less sure. In a 10-minute availability with reporters, he said he wants to win, but that he's happy just to be "neck-and-neck" with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is climbing in the polls and won the endorsement of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who dropped out of the race on Thursday.

On Friday, Romney began to seriously dial back expectations. He said he had an "uphill battle" in South Carolina anyway, because Gingrich is from the neighboring state, and that it's more important to win delegates, who will make the eventual choice at the Republican National Convention in August should the race still be undecided.

The Polls

HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal reports:

The polling trends of the last week, both nationally and in South Carolina, indicate that the race for the Republican presidential nomination has taken another dramatic shift. At face value, these trends suggest that Newt Gingrich has moved into the lead in South Carolina and now stands a good chance of winning the state's primary on Saturday.

But now may be a good time to consider the limitations of the polls themselves. Voters in South Carolina are making up their minds in the aftermath of events that a report published on the front page of the state's largest newspaper described as analogous to "a plugged-in toaster ... dropped into what had been the relatively placid waters of the South Carolina presidential primary."

Unforeseen late events can shape voter preferences in unexpected ways. Telephone polls interrupt voters in the middle of other activities and ask them to make a decision as if "the election were held today." But many real voters are still mulling their choices, particularly in the rush of recent events, so caution is in order in interpreting the latest poll results.

Nationally, the Gallup Daily tracking poll released on Friday shows another narrowing of the margin between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. What had been a 23-point Romney lead over Gingrich on Sunday has dropped to just 10 percentage points (30 to 20 percent), prompting Gallup's Frank Newport to note that "clearly things are collapsing" for Romney nationwide.

2012-01-20-Blumenthal-GallupNationalGOP.png

Check out the slideshow below for more on the Romney campaign.

PHOTO GALLERIES
Mitt Romney 2012

ALL-RELATED-ON-HUFFPOST

Subscribe to the Politics email.
How will Trump’s administration impact you?

CONVERSATIONS