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Posted at 01:23 PM ET, 03/09/2012

Is Gingrich winning over Southern voters?

Newt Gingrich is rising in the South, at least according to two polls released Friday. The candidate, who has staked the future of his campaign on winning in Mississippi and Alabama next week, is seeing his focus pay off.

An American Research Group poll of 600 likely Republican primary voters in Mississippi has Gingrich leading with 35 percent, followed by Mitt Romney with 31 percent, Rick Santorum with 20 percent and Ron Paul with 7 percent. The poll, conducted via live telephone interviews, was held after Super Tuesday.

An automated Rasmussen poll of 750 likely Republican primary voters in Alabama also showed a near three-way tie, with Gingrich barely ahead with 30 percent of the vote. Rick Santorum had 29 percent, Mitt Romney 28 percent and Ron Paul 7 percent.

Gingrich has won only two states in the GOP primary: South Carolina and Georgia.

Gingrich will hold four events in Mississippi on Friday and more in Alabama on Saturday.

Wins in the two states could prolong his time in the race, but pundits are arguing that Gingrich will soon be forced to exit – one way or another. Perhaps he has accomplished what he set out to do, wrote Alex Altman of Time magazine.

“For a long time, his bid was maligned by the press as a glorified book tour, a way to soak up the national spotlight and convert the exposure into cash. But in many ways, Gingrich has burnished his standing in the party, with a knack for rhetorical flourishes and forceful rhetoric that none of his rivals can match.”

Gingrich aides argue that the Republican heartland of the Deep South is “Gingrich country,” and upcoming primaries could revive his campaign.

By  |  01:23 PM ET, 03/09/2012

 
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