Two new polls of likely Republican primary voters in Mississippi and Alabama show Newt Gingrich leading in support, raising hope for his rise in the South.
The American Research Group survey of 600 likely Republican primary voters released Friday shows Gingrich with 35 percent support, while former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney has 31 percent, former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum has 20 percent and Texas Rep. Ron Paul has 7 percent.
Gingrich, who has won primaries only in South Carolina and Georgia, is also leading in Alabama but with a thin margin, according to an automated Rasmussen poll of 750 likely Republican primary voters. Gingrich has the support of 30 percent of the voters, followed by Santorum with 29 percent, Romney with 28 percent and Paul with 7 percent.
The poll in Mississippi also shows that 49 percent of tea party supporters prefer Gingrich as the GOP nominee, while 24 percent support Romney and 17 percent back Santorum. Only 5 percent of tea party supporters are with Paul.
The two states will hold primaries Tuesday.
Gingrich has said he will not pull out of the race to pave the way for Santorum. "I think there's a fair chance we'll win," he told The Associated Press Friday. "But I just want to set this to rest once and for all. We're going to Tampa."
During the week, Gingrich held events and spoke to supporters in Alabama and Mississippi.
However, Santorum, who was campaigning in Kansas, said forthcoming primaries may compel Gingrich to quit the field. Santorum won the Kansas Republican presidential caucuses on Saturday, early reports indicate.
On Super Tuesday, Romney bagged victories in six states, while Santorum got three and Gingrich won only in one.