Withstanding the Heat

Mitt Romney is close to closing the deal.

After laying back early on while the competition carved themselves up, Romney finally flexed his bankroll in Iowa and won in a caucus squeaker. Then, he fulfilled the high expectations that experts bestowed on his campaign in New Hampshire. Since then, the former governor of Massachusetts has been ducking the poison arrows now flying at a furious pace as he campaigns in the next stop, South Carolina.

We first polled the Palmetto State last week and found Romney to be holding his own with a soft lead over Newt Gingrich. But in the last five days, Romney has been the subject of  focused vitriol for his business practices, religion, Massachusetts health care program, and his stance on…well…everything. The most intense carping has been reserved for Romney’s past role at Bain Capital. The attacks have been articulate and sharp edged, although may have lost some steam when it was exposed that a big heaping helping of the mud thrown was based on Bain’s activity after Romney left. Oops.

So how has Romney fared as the human dart board? We asked 989 South Carolina voters who told us they will vote in the upcoming Republican primary the same round of questions as last week. First, let’s look at the head-to-head results and compare the two dates:

Type: Automated - Date: 1/15/2012 - Participants: 989 Likely voters - Margin of Error: ± 3.12%
 1/10/121/15/12
Gingrich21%18%
Huntsman4%5%
Paul8%12%
Perry5%6%
Romney26%31%
Santorum13%9%
Undecided22%19%

Although he’s been under intense scrutiny this week, the body blows Romney has been receiving are failing to leave a mark. He continues to inch up, and now be impossible to stop absent any true blockbuster headline. Like last week (and as we did in our final Iowa poll), we also asked our participants who they think will ultimately be the GOP nominee for president without regard to their personal choice. Here are the results from last week and Sunday night:

 1/10/121/15/12
Gingrich17%15%
Huntsman2%3%
Paul5%7%
Perry4%4%
Romney48%52%
Santorum8%7%
Undecided15%13%

For the first time since asking the “ultimate winner” question, Romney has broken through the 50 percent ceiling. Empirical evidence abounds that Democrats are now believing that Romney will be The One, as operatives big and small (including ubber-operative David Axelrod) are picking up the Republican naysayers mantra about Bain Capital. Still, the Romney train is chugging on up the hill as this competition keeps coming up short. With Jon Huntsman allegedly dropping out of the race and endorsing Romney, a solid win in South Carolina followed by a victory in Florida would probably make his ultimate victory inevitable.

If the GOP primaries were an opera, a caloric-challenged diva may be clearing her voice and getting ready to sing.

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NOTE: This poll was paid for by We Ask America Polls™. The information has not been shared with any public official, candidate, cause or campaign.

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