The State Column 
December 12, 2011
Ron Paul (R-TX), a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, sits in the top-tier in the latest NBC News/Marist polls of South Carolina and Florida GOP voters. Mr. Paul pulled in 9 percent of the votes in the latest NBC News/Marist poll  of South Carolina Republican Presidential Primary voters for a third place finish. Mr. Paul garnered 8 percent of the votes in the latest NBC News/Marist poll  of Florida Republican Presidential Primary voters.
Mr. Paul leads Texas Governor Rick Perry, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman in South Carolina and Florida. While Mr. Paul holds a 2 point lead over Mr. Perry and Ms. Bachmann in South Carolina, the Texas congressman sits 4 points ahead of the Texas governor and 5 points in front of the Minnesota representative in Florida.
Mr. Paul is being led by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in South Carolina and Florida. Mr. Gingrich garnered 42 percent of the votes in the South Carolina poll to finish 19 points ahead of Mr. Romney. Mr. Gingrich also leads Mr. Romney in the Florida poll, besting the Bain Capital co-founder by 15 percentage points.
Mr. Paul and Mr. Gingrich have both benefited from pizza magnate Herman Cain’s suspension of his GOP campaign. Mr. Paul and Mr. Gingrich are also likely to benefit from Mr. Romney’s $10,000 gaffe at the Iowa GOP debate Saturday.
Mr. Romney bet Mr. Perry $10,000 after sparring with the Texas governor over health care. Mr. Romney is likely to have alienated himself in Iowa; a state whose residents would be unlikely to ever bet someone $10,000. Mr. Romney’s $10,000 bet may have cost him a lot more in Iowa as the gaffe may secure a first place finish for Mr. Gingrich and a second place finish for Mr. Paul in the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd.
Mr. Paul faces the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire Republican Presidential Primary before the South Carolina and Florida primaries test the strength of his campaign in the South.