Palmetto State primary: Can Gingrich maintain momentum?

Last night, Mitt Romney’s campaign and Newt Gingrich’s campaign sent out media advisories indicating they would be at Tommy’s Country Ham House in Greenville on Saturday, when South Carolinians go to the polls to vote in the first-in-the-South primary.

The problem? Both campaigns said their events were at 10:45 a.m.

The clash in Greenville is symbolic for the Upstate Greenville-Spartanburg area, which may determine the outcome of today’s primary.

Gingrich needs the socially conservative evangelical voters, who may have reservations about his past marital issues, in this turnout-heavy region to not get cold feet before going into the voting booth.

Romney needs to over-perform in this region or hold down Gingrich’s and Santorum’s vote or hope some of Gingrich’s vote goes to Santorum.

According to recent polls, Gingrich has been pulling away after strong and defiant debate performances. A Public Policy Polling poll conducted on Friday evening showed Gingrich with a nine point lead over Romney. Gingrich received 37 percent in the survey; Romney 28; Santorum 16; Paul 14.  

In that poll, Gingrich is “winning with evangelicals (41 percent to 21 percent for Romney), Tea Party voters (52 percent to 18 percent for Romney), and very conservative voters (44 percent to 21 percent for Romney).”

In the same poll, 77 percent of those surveyed said they viewed the media negatively. Only 14 percent said they had a favorable view of the media. 

Despite Gingrich’s strong numbers, another poll released earlier in the day, which was conducted by Clemson, showed that a victory was far from guaranteed even though Gingrich is the favorite going into Saturday. 

That poll found Gingrich leading Romney, 32 percent to 26 percent, but only 32 percent of those surveyed said they had decided on a candidate to support. 

Gingrich has assailed Romney as a moderate leading up to the primary while Romney has rolled out surrogates to incessantly talk about “values and characters.” 

Both candidates have flaws, but Gingrich have may have done enough in the past week to galvanize enough voters to go to the polls in order to put him back into the race.