Early Polls Show Romney's Lead in South Carolina Shrinking

Nate Silver of the FiveThirtyEight blog writes that the first South Carolina GOP primary poll contradicts his earlier prediction that Mitt Romney would increase "his modest lead in the South Carolina polls once his victory in New Hampshire was reflected in the surveys there." Instead, the poll, an automated survey from InsiderAdvantage, "shows Mr. Romney’s lead contracting in South Carolina," though Silver "urge[s] a lot of caution in interpreting it."

The poll "was conducted on Wednesday and shows Mr. Romney with 23 percent of the vote, just 2 points ahead of Newt Gingrich at 21 percent. The poll has Rick Santorum and Ron Paul tied for third place at 13 percent, with Jon M. Huntsman Jr. having moved ahead of Rick Perry for fifth place."
But Silver is not completely sold on InsiderAdvantage. He writes, "InsiderAdvantage has a mixed track record and rates fairly poorly in the FiveThrityEight pollster ratings, which is one reason to interpret these numbers with some care. In addition, Matt Towery, the head of InsiderAdvantage, formerly served as the head of Mr. Gingrich’s political organization from 1992 until Mr. Gingrich left Congress."

Silver does note, however, that "another polling firm that rates more highly, Public Policy Polling, said in a series of Twitter messages that it has also detected a tight race between Mr. Romney and Mr. Gingrich in South Carolina, with little evidence of favorable momentum for Mr. Romney following his New Hampshire victory."

Negative early news for Romney in South Carolina is partially offset by early polling in Florida, however. Silver writes: "Confusing matters further is that a poll of Florida, from Rasmussen Reports, did show some gains for Mr. Romney. The poll, conducted on Wednesday, showed Mr. Romney with 41 percent of the vote there, better than he has done in any prior survey of the state. The poll also showed Mr. Gingrich’s numbers on the decline." Silver predicts that "if the initial results from South Carolina and Florida are confirmed by other pollsters, they would suggest that Florida could play a backstop role for Mr. Romney, in somewhat the same way that New Hampshire did for him relative to Iowa."

However, at this stage Silver suggests that we wait before attaching much weight to the early poll results from either South Carolina or Florida. 
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