Romney came in at 29 percent, but has fallen 1 point from the same poll taken prior to his overwhelming victory in New Hampshire. Newt Gingrich is in second place at 24 percent, followed by Ron Paul at 15 percent, Rick Santorum at 14 percent, Rick Perry at 6 percent, Jon Huntsman at 5 percent, and Buddy Roemer at 1 percent.
That’s a 6-point jump for Paul, who was the only candidate other than Romney to perform better than expected last week in New Hampshire.
Romney has been under constant attack from his GOP rivals for his time as an executive at Bain Capital, but it hasn’t slowed him down yet in the Palmetto State.
A plurality of voters – 39 percent – said jobs and the economy were the most important issues in the election, and 35 percent said Romney was the best candidate to lead on the economy, followed by Gingrich at 25 percent.
That’s bad news for Rick Santorum and Rick Perry, who are counting on their brand of Christian conservatism to resonate with South Carolina voters. Santorum rode that support to notch a narrow second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, only eight votes behind Romney.
However, only 4 percent of voters in South Carolina said social issues were the most important factor in this year’s cycle.
Romney’s perceived electability is also helping to buoy him in South Carolina, where 50 percent of voters said they’re concerned about nominating a candidate with the best chance to defeat President Obama in the general election.