Former House Speaker and GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich leads in the key early states of Iowa and South Carolina, according to two new polls that underscore that he is poised to claim two of the first three contests in the Republican presidential nominating process.
Gingrich leads the field in the Hawkeye State with support from 33 percent of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released early on Tuesday. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, are tied for second place, with 18 percent each. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is fourth, with 11 percent. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is at 8 percent, while former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., is at 7 percent. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who is not actively campaigning in the Hawkeye State, earned just 2 percent. Three percent are undecided.
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The poll was conducted Nov. 30-Dec. 4, largely before embattled businessman Herman Cain withdrew from the race amid allegations that he had sexually harassed women. Cain supporters were reallocated based on their second choice.
Iowa will kick off the nominating process with caucuses on Jan. 3.
In South Carolina, which holds its primary on Jan. 21, Gingrich held a significant lead over Romney of 38 percent to 22 percent, according to a Winthrop University poll. Perry was third, with 9 percent, followed by Cain with 7 percent, Bachmann at 5 percent, Paul at 4 percent, Santorum at 3 percent and Huntsman at 1 percent. Nine percent of likely primary voters are undecided.
The Winthrop poll was also conducted mostly before Cain's withdrawal from the race. For interviews after he left the race, interviewers informed respondents that Cain was no longer a candidate, and those respondents were given the opportunity to pick another candidate if they wished.
Taken together, the polls indicate that Gingrich could emerge from South Carolina having won two of the first three nominating elections; polls show Romney leading in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire. With Romney considered the favorite in the Nevada caucuses, Florida's Jan. 31 primary would appear to be pivotal for both candidates.
The ABC News/Washington Post Iowa poll surveyed 356 likely caucusgoers and has a margin of error of +/- 5.2 percent.
The Winthrop University poll surveyed 340 likely South Carolina Republican primary voters from Nov. 27-Dec. 4. The margin of error is +/- 5.4 percent.
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