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Romney struggles with conservative SC voters

 

In the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney struggled among very conservative GOP voters, Tea Party supporters, and evangelicals. And he ended up losing that race (though we didn't find out until this week).

A week later, however, Romney overperformed with these three groups in New Hampshire, and he won that contest easily.

And in South Carolina tonight? According to the exit polls, it looks more like Iowa than New Hampshire.

Among voters who consider themselves to be "very conservative" -- who make up 36% of tonight's primary electorate -- Newt Gingrich leads Romney, 45%-20%.

Among voters who are Tea Party supporters, Gingrich has a 17-point edge over Romney, 43%-26%.

And among those who describe themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians -- who made up 65% of the GOP primary electorate -- Gingrich is ahead, 42%-22%.

Besides ideology, the exit polls also make it clear that Gingrich benefited -- and Romney struggled -- from the final two debates this week.

Among those who said they made up their minds in the "last few days," Gingrich leads 43%-23%. Yet among those who said they made up their minds earlier than that, Romney leads by two points, Romney leads 35%-32%.

And among those who said the debates were the "single most important factor" or "one of several important factors," Gingrich leads by a wide margin.