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NBC-Marist poll confirms Santorum surge

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A new NBC-Marist poll confirms that with the caucuses four days away former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is the frontrunner in Iowa (with Texas Rep. Ron Paul close on his heels), while former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum is experiencing a late-in-the-game surge.

Romney and Paul are battling for the top spot, winning the loyalty of 23 percent and 21 percent of likely caucus-goers, respectively. The survey finds Santorum at 15 percent, a jump from 6 percent over the last month. The caucuses are Jan. 3.

Chris Carlson

AP

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks at a town hall meeting in Belle Plaine, Iowa., earlier in December.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, has sunk from 23 percent to 13 percent in NBC’s polling. Even worse, 35 percent of respondents said Gingrich was “unacceptable” as the Republican nominee — a 19 point jump over the past month.

Forty-one percent of respondents said they find Paul unacceptable — reconfirming that even as the libertarian-minded congressman’s support grows, it has a definite ceiling.

The poll also shows a slight boost for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has moved to 14 percent from 10 percent over the past month. Rep. Michele Bachmann stands at 6 percent.

The results are similar to those found by a CNN/TIME poll released Wednesday.

Gingrich, hit with a tsunami of negative ads, has fallen quickly from frontrunner to second-tier candidate.

While Santorum is on the rise, he will have to fight hard against Gingrich and Perry to come in third in Iowa, and evangelical Christians are splintered between candidates.

The poll was conducted Dec. 27 and 28 and included 425 likely GOP caucus-goers, with a margin-of-error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points. Unlike CNN’s survey, this poll included independents and a few Democrats who are likely to caucus as Republicans.

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