Two early state polls released Sunday underscore how desperately Mitt Romney needs a Republican ally in his fight against Newt Gingrich.
The NBC News-Marist polls report Romney faces a steep deficit against Gingrich in South Carolina and Florida, the third and fourth states on the GOP primary calendar respectively. In South Carolina, he trails 41 to 21 percent among likely voters, the poll finds; in Florida, he's behind 42 percent to 27 percent among likely voters. Those two contests are still longer than a month away, and the numbers could change dramatically after the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary. But they show how much work the former Massachusetts governor faces if he wants to catch Gingrich.
As significant, however, is how poorly the rest of the Republican contenders fare. No other candidate climbs above 10 percent - in fact, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum combined to garner only 14 percent of the Palmetto State's vote, or almost three times fewer than Gingrich's support. Their standing is worse in Florida, where the three Republican hopefuls combine for just 9 percent.
Gallup's national tracking poll of the Republican primary mirrors the state polls: Through Saturday, Perry's support sits at 6 percent, Bachmann's at 5 percent, and Santorum's at 2 percent.