Despite concerns from many Republicans about his conservative credentials, a new poll finds Mitt Romney holding his own against Newt Gingrich for the support of Tea Party voters.
According to the CBS News/New York Times poll, released on Wednesday, 29 percent of Tea Party supporters back Romney, while 28 percent back former House Speaker Gingrich, a statistical tie within the poll's margin of error.
Overall, though, Romney continues to hold a commanding lead among likely Republican voters. The poll found Romney leading the field nationally with 28 percent support, followed by Gingrich in second place with 21 percent and then former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum with 16 percent. Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) closely trails Santorum in fourth place with 15 percent and Gov. Rick Perry (Texas) lags behind with 7 percent, the poll found.
The poll comes just ahead of the South Carolina primary as Santorum and Gingrich argue over whether one of them should drop out to help consolidate power as the "anti-Romney candidate." A recent survey from the conservative Rasmussen Polling found that Romney leads the field in the Palmetto State with 35 percent support among likely South Carolina GOP voters, followed by Gingrich with 21 percent and then Santorum and Paul, who are tied for third with 16 percent.
On Tuesday, Gingrich argued that if Santorum were to drop out and fold his support behind the former House Speaker, Gingrich would definitely win the South Carolina primary.
"I am respectful that Rick has every right to run as long as he feels that's what he should do," Gingrich said. "But from the standpoint of the conservative movement, consolidating into a Gingrich candidacy would in fact virtually guarantee a victory on Saturday."
Santorum, for his part, has scoffed at the idea dropping out to help Gingrich.
"I'm a friend of Newt's — he's a good man — but the idea that someone who is 0 and 2 in races is that I am hurting him — yeah, I'm hurting him. I'm beating him. That's the difference," Santorum said, according to CNN.
The CBS News/New York Times poll surveyed 1,154 adults between Jan. 12-17 by telephone and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for the entire sample.