COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - The game is changing again in South Carolina just hours before the polls open for Saturday's First-in-the-South primary.
A poll released by Clemson University Friday afternoon showed that new frontrunner Newt Gingrich had extended his slim lead over former GOP leader Mitt Romney to six percentage points. On Thursday, a Rasmussen Reports poll showed Gingrich with just a two-point lead over Romney, who earlier in the week had a 14-percentage point advantage. Ron Paul settled into third with 11 percent, and Rick Santorum continued to fall with 9 percent.
Romney came to South Carolina the frontrunner, but has seen that lead dry up in recent days. But, by the looks of a spirited rally in Gilbert Friday you couldn't tell Romney had dropped. Even rains couldn't keep a crowd of supporters away from an outdoor event at Harmon's Tree Farm where Romney campaigned with Govenor Nikki Haley.Related Stories Gingrich cancels campaign event due to poor attendance SC Sen. Jim DeMint maintains neutrality in primary Romney's financial records questioned; AP examines
However, Romney was cautiously optimistic about a Saturday win.
"The fact is that right now it looks like it's neck and neck. That's a pretty good spot to be in," said Romney. "I know if those polls are right, regardless of who gets the final number- we're both gonna get a lot of delegates. I want as many delegates as I can get."
Meanwhile, the current frontrunner, Newt Gingrich canceled an appearance in Charleston Friday morning due to poor attendance. There were no such problems in Orangeburg Friday afternoon at a packed Gingrich town hall forum where confidence was the order of the day.
"Tomorrow is going to be a very very important day," Gingrich told supporters. "With your help, and with the help of other good citizens across the state of South Carolina we are going to take the first big step to ensure that a conservative is nominated for president of the United States."
While Gingrich touted a possible win, Rick Santorum, his numbers dwindling in recent polls, promised that he and his supporters would "surprise" everyone by pulling out a victory.
During a campaign stop in Lexington County, Santorum declared the contest a three-man race between himself, Romney and Gingrich. He neglected to mention Ron Paul, the man in front of him in the polls heading in to Saturday's vote.
Paul criss-crossed South Carolina Friday, vowing to continue his campaign win or lose on Saturday, during what was billed as a "whistle stop tour" of the state.
One of Paul's stops brought him to Charleston Air Force Base where he addressed a crowd of 50 supporters telling them that his campaign is doing something "a lot different than what the other candidates are doing" by focusing on a strict interpretation of the Constitution.
The polls open at 7 a.m. Saturday and close at 7 p.m. South Carolina voters have successfully chosen the eventual GOP nominee since 1980.
(Materials from CNN contributed to this report.)