ATLANTA (WXIA) - With a only a week left to go before the Super Tuesday Georgia Primary, Newt Gingrich is poised to beat both Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney in the Peach State, according to an exclusive 11Alive News poll conducted by SurveyUSA.
But his lead is narrowing, as Santorum's support grows rapidly.
The Georgia poll shows Gingrich at 39 percent, Santorum in second place at 24 percent and Romney in a close third place at 23 percent.
Compared to the last 11Alive News poll three weeks ago, Gingrich is down 6 percentage points, while Santorum is up some 15 points. Romney is down 9 points. All three trends mirror the trends for the three candidates nationally.
Ron Paul remains in fourth place with 9 percentage points, which is an identical point total to his placing in the last poll three weeks ago. Just 5 percent of voters are undecided.
Though Santorum has stolen support from Romney and Gingrich, he would have a lot of ground to make up in the closing days of campaigning.
"I'm holding out hope," said one of Santorum's Georgia supporters, Rep. Buzz Brockway, (R) Lawrenceville, Monday afternoon.
"I think he has a chance to win Georgia.... If he does what we expect him to do -- very, very well in Michigan -- and I think he may surprise people in Arizona, I think he has a chance to win Georgia."
Gingrich supporters like Sen. Barry Loudermilk, (R) Cassville, said they expect Gingrich's numbers to increase again as a result of three days of campaigning across Georgia this week.
"Whenever he comes to town," Loudermilk said, "that's when you start seeing Newt build up his strength.... I think that you're going to see a resurgence of Newt Gingrich.... And I think you'll see these polls stabilize some, and possibly swing back in Newt's favor, and you may see him pick up steam again."
No one from the Romney Georgia campaign was available for an interview Monday afternoon.
As it stands, "Looks like Gingrich is likely to hang on in Georgia and the real battle will be for second place," said Emory University Political Scientist Alan Abramowitz -- quickly adding that it all could change in a heartbeat.
Abramowitz said that the results in Georgia and the other Super Tuesday states could be strongly influenced by the results in Michigan and Arizona.
"If Santorum does very well in today's [February 28] primaries, especially in Michigan, that could affect the voting in Georgia and other Super Tuesday states. We could see Santorum surge past Gingrich in Georgia along with other states voting on March 6."
Gingrich campaigned in Georgia on Sunday, and on Tuesday morning was beginning three more days of Georgia appearances.
"Gingrich absolutely needs a win in Georgia to stay in the race, and he really needs a decisive win," Abramowitz said. "Even that might not be enough if Santorum does well today and on Super Tuesday. That could reinforce his position as the only viable alternative to Romney in the GOP race."
In terms of favorability among the presidential candidates, President Obama maintains the highest rating among Georgia voters, at 41 percent. Newt Gingrich is second at 38 percent, Rick Santorum at 25 percent is in third place, Mitt Romney at 24 percent is in fourth place, while Ron Paul comes with an 18 percent favorable rating.
The poll was taken from Thursday through Sunday, and surveyed 1,340 adults across the state of Georgia. Of those surveyed, 457 said they were likely to vote in next week's Republican presidential primary, including about 6 percent of those surveyed who said they already returned a ballot in early voting. The poll's margin of error is 4.7 percentage points.