Gingrich leads Romney in S Carolina: Poll
North Charleston - Republican White House hopeful Newt Gingrich has a six-point lead in South Carolina, a poll released on Thursday showed, with the state's primary less than 24 hours away.
Public Policy Polling (PPP) released the survey as Gingrich put in a strong performance in a debate with rivals aiming to secure the nomination needed to take on Democratic President Barack Obama in a November 6 election.
The survey put Gingrich (35%) clear of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (29%), with Texas congressman Ron Paul and former senator Rick Santorum tied for third on 15%.
"For the first time in our South Carolina tracking this month (Gingrich's) favourability is better than Romney's, with 53% of voters holding a positive opinion of him compared to 51% for his chief competitor," PPP added.
The survey said Gingrich's lead with evangelicals, a key group in the conservative southern state, "held steady today at 40-22 over Romney".
"He's also doing well with Tea Party voters (46-21), registered Republicans (38-30), voters describing themselves as very conservative (41-21), men (39-27), and voters in the Upstate (36-25)," PPP said of Gingrich.
The release of the poll followed the airing of an interview with Gingrich's former wife where she said that her ex-husband asked for an "open marriage" after carrying on a six-year affair with an aide.
"Revelations from the Marianne Gingrich interview haven't taken a toll on Newt's image yet," PPP said.
Gingrich angrily denied the marital allegations at the start of Thursday's debate and slammed the US media for airing the interview.
"Let me be quite clear. The story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period says the story was false," Gingrich said, raising his voice as he went on the attack.