Newt Gingrich has nearly caught Mitt Romney nationally, according to the latest survey from conservative polling outlet Rasmussen.
Romney took 30 percent of likely Republican voters in the poll, followed by Gingrich at 27 percent, Rick Santorum at 15 percent, Ron Paul at 13 percent and Rick Perry at 4 percent.
After victories in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, a win in South Carolina would go a long way to cementing the narrative that Romney is the inevitable GOP nominee. According to the Rasmussen poll, 70 percent of Republicans already believe that Romney will eventually win the party’s nomination.
Romney leads comfortably in the Palmetto State according to most polls, but the Rasmussen poll indicates that Gingrich could be picking up steam following a fiery debate performance on Monday night.
The Rasmussen poll, which was taken Tuesday night, shows Gingrich has spiked 11 percent from two weeks ago, when he was at 16 percent.
The candidates will debate again in South Carolina on Thursday.
The poll also finds Gingrich within striking distance of Romney on what most polls indicate is the No. 1 issue in the election — the economy. Thirty-four percent said Romney is the best candidate to manage the economy, while 29 percent said the best candidate would be Gingrich.
The GOP candidates have been hammering away at Romney over his time as an executive at Bain Capital, calling him a “vulture” capitalist who laid off workers and picked companies clean for the benefit of his own investments.
Romney has also come under fire for not releasing his tax returns, leading to speculation that because most of his income comes from investments, he might pay a lower tax rate than most working Americans.
According to the Rasmussen poll, the race remains fluid. More than half of the likely GOP primary voters surveyed said they could still change their minds.