We already knew Newt Gingrich was surging in South Carolina, but a new Public Policy Poll has even more dramatic results: Last night, the first of three nights of tracking, Gingrich actually led Mitt Romney 34% to 28%. Romney's 28% is consistent with the numbers PPP has seen in previous polls, but during the past two weeks Gingrich jumped from 23% to 34%. Ron Paul was at 15%, Rick Santorum at 14%, and Rick Perry—who has since exited the race—at 5%.
Gingrich's debate performance helped him: Of those who watched Monday night's debate, 43% supported Gingrich vs. 27% for Romney. Of those who did not watch, Romney leads Gingrich 29% to 22%. Perry's exit probably won't make much difference to Gingrich's numbers, considering his supporters were evenly split between Gingrich and Romney as a second choice, but Perry's endorsement of Gingrich could sway some of them. Of course, it remains to be seen how the interview with Gingrich's ex-wife—who says he wanted an open marriage—will affect his numbers. (Read more Newt Gingrich stories.)