Jonathan D. Salant
Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s rise in the Republican presidential race includes a 13 percentage point lead over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in a poll in Florida, site of a crucial early primary next month.
The Quinnipiac University poll also shows Gingrich running almost as strong as Romney in matchups with President Barack Obama in Florida and two other important states in the general election, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Obama fared worse against both Republicans in Ohio than he did in a similar “swing state” Quinnipiac poll a month earlier, and in all three states more voters say the president doesn’t deserve a second term than say he does.
Gingrich’s surge “is accompanied by a better showing among independent voters” in a race against Obama, said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Hamden, Connecticut-based polling institute. “The media says the White House wants to run against Gingrich because he will be easier to beat than Romney, but the data is less clear today than it was last month.”
Boosted by well-received performances in candidate debates, Gingrich has taken the lead in national polls of the Republican race and surveys in Iowa, where caucuses on Jan. 3 begin the nomination process. Primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina then precede the vote in Florida on Jan. 31.
The Quinnipiac poll of registered Republican voters in Florida shows Gingrich backed by 35 percent, Romney by 22 percent.
In Pennsylvania, Gingrich leads Romney 31 percent to 17 percent, and in Ohio the poll shows Gingrich with 36 percent support to 18 percent for Romney.
Pennsylvania holds its primary on April 24; Ohio’s is on June 12.
Gingrich “is no longer just the flavor of the month since his boomlet has now stretched from November into December, and voting begins in Iowa in less than a month,” said Brown. “Gingrich certainly has the momentum on his side and is peaking at the right moment, but Romney has the edge in money and organization.”
None of the other Republican candidates reached 10 percent in any of the three states, including businessman Herman Cain, who suspended his campaign on Dec. 3 amid allegations of sexual indiscretions. The previous swing state poll, released Nov. 10, found Cain ahead in Florida and Ohio and tied with Romney in Pennsylvania.
The three states combine for 67 of the 270 electoral votes needed to be elected president. Obama carried all of them in 2008.
Matchups With Obama
In its overall sample of registered voters, Quinnipiac’s poll gives Gingrich and Romney a 1 percentage point lead over Obama in Ohio, where the president led both a month earlier.
Romney led Obama by 3 points in Florida, the same as a month ago. Gingrich trailed Obama by 2 points in the state; in the previous survey he was behind by 3 points.
In Pennsylvania, Obama led Romney by 3 points and Gingrich by 8 points. A month ago, he was ahead of Romney there by 1 point and Gingrich by 10 points.
In Florida, 51 percent of the entire sample said Obama didn’t deserve re-election, while 44 percent said yes. In Ohio, the figures were 53 percent no, 42 percent yes, and in Pennsylvania they were 49 percent no, 47 percent yes.
The poll was taken Nov. 28-Dec. 5. The error margins for the entire samples are plus-or-minus 2.8 percentage points in Florida and 2.6 points in Ohio and Pennsylvania. In the Republican samples, the error margins are 4.3 percentage points in Florida, 4.4 points in Ohio and 4.1 points in Pennsylvania
The earlier survey was taken Oct. 31-Nov. 7.
--Editors: Don Frederick, Jim Rubin.
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