Poll: Paul, Perry on move in SC

Mitt Romney leads the GOP presidential field in South Carolina, but his rivals are closing in fast.

Newt Gingrich is close behind the former Massachusetts governor, while Ron Paul and Rick Perry have posted impressive gains over the past week, according to an American Research Group poll released on Friday.

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Romney came in at 29 percent, followed by Gingrich at 25 percent, Paul at 20 percent, Perry at 9 percent, Rick Santorum at 7 percent and Jon Huntsman at 1 percent.

Paul has climbed 11 percent in the last week and Perry has gained 7 percent. Santorum, who was tied for second in last week’s poll at 24 percent, plummeted into fifth place in the current poll.

Romney and Gingrich have remained steady in a week-over-week comparison.

Although he still trails by a significant margin, the poll is good news for Perry, who desperately needs to outperform in South Carolina. The Texas governor left New Hampshire before the primary to concentrate on the Palmetto State, where he hopes his message will resonate with the more conservative electorate.

The numbers are also positive for Paul, who is looking to broaden his base by building on momentum from a strong second place finish in New Hampshire.

Santorum, who gambled on a strong showing in New Hampshire following his surprising second-place finish in Iowa, has reversed course after placing fifth in the Granite State.

The ARG poll shows there could be room for Gingrich to surge on the back of the conservative wing of South Carolina’s electorate.

The former House Speaker leads among Tea Party supporters and evangelicals, and is tied for the lead with Romney among self-identified Republicans.