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Gingrich supporters give him an edge

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at the South Carolina Republican presidential candidate debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Monday, Jan. 16, 2012. UPI/Charles Dharapak/Pool
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at the South Carolina Republican presidential candidate debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Monday, Jan. 16, 2012. UPI/Charles Dharapak/Pool | License Photo

CHARLESTON, S.C., Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Newt Gingrich's passionate supporters put him within striking distance of front-runner Mitt Romney in the South Carolina primary, a Politico poll indicates.

Romney remains at the top of the Republican contenders with 37 percent support; Gingrich is second with 30 percent.

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But Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker, appears to have more enthusiastic supporters. When voters are asked to volunteer the candidate they plan to vote for without being prompted by a list, Romney's lead over Gingrich drops to 31 percent to 29 percent, the newspaper said.

The two are virtually tied, with Romney at 23 percent and Gingrich at 22 percent, when voters are asked who they "definitely" will support, the poll indicates.

Politico said one reason Gingrich is closing the gap is his strong debate performances. Another debate was scheduled for Thursday night.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, holds significant leads with the blocs of voters most likely to show up, the poll said.

Also in the poll, Texas Rep. Ron Paul had 11 percent support; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, 10 percent, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has dropped out of the race Thursday and endorsed Gingrich, 4 percent.

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The poll showed 8 percent remain undecided.

The Tarrance Group polled 600 likely South Carolina Republican voters Tuesday and Wednesday. The margin of error was 4.1 percentage points.

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