This is the first polling evidence of Newt’s surge which has let Romney to relaunch Operation Zany and to haul out Susan Molinari and others to attack Newt.

From Rasmussen this morning:

The race for the Republican presidential nomination is now nearly even with Mitt Romney still on top but Newt Gingrich just three points apart.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Republican Primary Voters nationwide shows Romney with 30% support and Gingrich with 27% of the vote. Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, who was running second two weeks ago, has now dropped to 15%.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul captures 13% support from likely primary voters, and Texas Governor Rick Perry remains in last place with four percent (4%). Another four percent (4%) like some other candidate in the race, and seven percent (7%) are undecided….

But the story in the new numbers, taken Tuesday night, is Gingrich’s jump 11 points from 16% two weeks ago. Romney’s support is essentially unchanged from 29% at that time, while Santorum is down six points from 21%.

Of course, we don’t vote “nationally,” we vote state by state.  It will be interesting to see post-debate, post-Palin sorta endorsement polling.  But with time so tight before Saturday’s election, the election may be the only accurate measure of Newt’s surge, or not.

Also, with the precipitous Santorum fall and Perry finding no movement, it’s time for them to make a hard choice — stay in and hand Romney a narrow win and the nomination, or do the right thing and throw their support behind Newt.

I know some people don’t like to hear that, but it’s the truth.

Update:  Rick Perry’s Final Act: King Maker?