Opinion polls suggested former House Speaker Newt Gingrich surged ahead of frontrunner Mitt Romney in South Carolina as the state prepares to vote Saturday in its Republican primary.
The last survey before the voters go to the polls showed Gingrich with a 40%-to-26% lead over Romney, CNN reported. The same American Research Group tracking poll showed the two men tied just a few days ago.
Another poll showed Gingrich with 37%, compared to 28% for Romney. Most surveys showed Rick Santorum and Ron Paul trailing with about 15% apiece.
Anything close to a 10-point win would be a massive victory for Gingrich, who stumbled through the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. It would also strip Romney of the cloak of invincibility he once wore as the presumptive nominee.
Besides his problems in South Carolina, Romney also turned out to have narrowly lost Iowa to Santorum, a final count showed, reversing his Election Night 8-vote lead there.
Polls close in South Carolina at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Gingrich is riding a last-minute surge fueled by his combative performances in two debates, especially the final one Wednesday night in which he ripped into CNN host John King for kicking off the debate with a question about his ex-wife’s tawdry claim that he wanted an “open marriage.”
In the same debate, Romney fumbled a question about his tax returns, saying “maybe” when asked if he would release them.