Mitt Romney remains the new and overwhelming choice among South Carolina Republicans in three polls released Friday, though the field is sure to narrow and race to tighten after Tuesday’s New Hampshire.
CNN/Time/ORC International gave Romney a commanding 37 percent, with Rick Santorum at 19 percent and Newt Gingrich on his heels at 18 percent.
A closer fight is projected by Rasmussen, which gave Romney 27 percent on Friday and Santorum an extremely close 24 percent.
The American Research Group called in 37 percent for Romney but with a tie between Santorum and Gingrich for second place, at 24 points each.
The results come just days ahead of the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, and in advance of what is expected to be a swarm of interest into South Carolina and its first-in-the-South contest Jan. 21.
In the CNN survey, Romney’s numbers are double what they were in December. Today’s results come from polling conducted Wednesday and Thursday.
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas has doubled his numbers, going from 6 percent to 12 percent. Former Utah Gov. and former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman is at 1 percent.
And, in an apparent reinforcement of questions over faith in South Carolina, voters who are both born-again Christians and tea party supporters are least likely to support Romney, but he still tops the rest of the field with 31 percent support, CNN said.
The poll was conducted for CNN and Time magazine on January 4-5 by ORC International, with 485 South Carolina voters who are likely to vote in the Republican primary questioned by telephone. The survey’s overall sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points, CNN said.