Politics & Government

Romney leads S.C. poll for GOP nomination

A new poll affirms former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as South Carolina’s early favorite for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling quizzed 1,000 South Carolinians who usually vote in GOP primaries and found Romney leading with 27 percent support. The poll’s margin of error is 3.1 percent.

Romney, who also ran for president in 2008, also is in first place in three other early-voting Republican contests – in New Hampshire, Nevada and Iowa, according to polls by Public Policy, which made its reputation polling for Democratic candidates.

But Larry Sabato, politics professor and director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, expects Romney to lose his S.C. lead, in part because of his Mormon faith.

“You have to combine a poll with the political reality of a state,” Sabato said. “There’s a reason why (Romney) does so well in New Hampshire, because he was governor nearby in Massachusetts. They know him.

“There’s a reason he’s doing well in Nevada. There are lots of Mormons there.

“But (Christian) fundamentalists are about 60 percent of the Republican base in both South Carolina and Iowa, and they have a problem with Mormons. These are small leads (in South Carolina and Iowa), and we know for sure that Romney has problems in both states. We know that from 2008, and not that much has changed.”

During his 2008 run, Romney spent millions in South Carolina only to finish a disappointing fourth.

That showing has led to widespread speculation that Romney will not campaign much in South Carolina this year as he seeks the GOP nomination. Still, Romney was briefly in the state last month to meet with a group in Irmo to discuss the economy.

According to the poll, Romney’s strongest following is among South Carolinians who say they are moderate Republicans. He received 41 percent of that group’s support to Sarah Palin’s 15 percent.

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