After failing to put a decent margin of victory on the Iowa Caucus, and getting snubbed by his hometown paper, Mitt Romney got some great news Friday out of the unlikeliest place—South Carolina. Even though the conventional wisdom is that Romney faces an uphill climb in the southern, conservative state, new polls have the former Massachusetts governor leading—in one case, by 18 percent.
The poll, conducted by CNN and ORC International January 4-5, found that Romney leads the state with support from 37 percent of likely Republican primary voters. In earlier polls taken in December, Romney was getting crushed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The next highest candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. (and near-winner of Iowa) Rick Santorum, was at 19 percent support.
The polls raise the prospect that Romney might deliver an unprecedented walloping in this 2012 GOP race. Already, he's looking to be the first GOP non-incumbent candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire, even if his win in the Iowa caucuses was by a mere eight votes. A recent poll from Suffolk University found Romney dominating his rivals in the Granite State. A victory in South Carolina would almost certainly seal the deal.
There are some caveats. The South Carolina primary is more than two weeks away, nearly a lifetime in the current, sped-up primary schedule. And another recent poll, by Rasmussen Reports, found Romney edging Santorum in South Carolina by only 3 percent. And with the wind at his back from his surprisingly strong finish in Iowa, Santorum has nowhere to go but up. But he'll have a long way to climb to stop Romney's momentum.