Huffpost Politics

Rick Santorum South Carolina Primary 2012 Outlook

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Regardless of the outcome in South Carolina's primary election on Saturday, Rick Santorum says he will soldier on in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Santorum goes into the contest trailing rival contenders Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, according to the latest polls. He is already turning his attention to Florida.

The AP reports:

Santorum's advisers said he would have no reason to exit the four-man race for the GOP nomination after voting ends and those allies note he went into primary day the top vote-getter in Iowa's leadoff caucuses and besting Gingrich in New Hampshire.

Romney and Gingrich were battling for the top spot in South Carolina and Santorum was looking to post an acceptable showing. During campaign stops on Friday, he cast himself as a Goldilocks candidate: just right when compared to Gingrich's "too hot" rhetoric and Romney's "too cold" personality.

Santorum also looked to disqualify the fourth candidate in the race, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Santorum said there were three candidates who could capture the GOP nomination and cast libertarian favorite Paul as a gadfly annoyance.

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.

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