By Justin Sink
Despite a historic sweep of the first two nominating contests in the GOP field, Mitt Romney holds just a two percentage-point lead in South Carolina, his smallest lead of 2012.
Romney is the favorite of 23 percent of South Carolina voters, narrowly edging Newt Gingrich's 21 percent, according to the latest poll from Insider Advantage. Rick Santorum pulls 14 percent of Palmetto State voters, while Ron Paul rounds out the top four with 13 percent. Jon Huntsman's 7 percent and Rick Perry's 5 percent trail the pack.
In the three other major South Carolina polls completed in the new year, Romney was earning 37 percent, 27 percent and 30 percent, according to Real Clear Politics — meaning his 23 percent in the latest poll marks a precipitous decline.
Gingrich, meanwhile, has maintained a steady band of support between 18 and 23 percent.
The poll could also signal the beginning of the end of the Santorum boomlet, who has fallen 10 percentage points from a Rasmussen poll released just after his near-win in the Iowa caucuses. That too could help Gingrich, who hopes conservatives in South Carolina will rally around his campaign as an alternative to Romney.
Also notable is that Perry seems to have gained little momentum in South Carolina, a state considered to be demographically favorable to his campaign. The Texas governor remains stuck at around just 5 percent of Palmetto State voters despite moving his campaign's focus to the state.