Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has taken a double digit lead in the national Republican primary since the fall of businessman Herman Cain. But he’s also moved to the front of the pack in the first primary states, and is even closing on former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, the longtime stronghold of the former Massachusetts Governor.
The new CNN/TIME polls show Gingrich with a 13 point lead among Iowa GOP caucus-goers and a 23 point lead in both the South Carolina and Florida primaries. In New Hampshire, where Romney has averaged more than forty points of support throughout the campaign, Romney gets 35 percent to Newt’s 26.
In Iowa and New Hampshire, the first three finishers are the same: Gingrich at the top, Romney more than ten points behind, and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) with exactly the same level of support in both states — 17 percent. In South Carolina and Florida, it’s essentially a two man race (barely). Gingrich soars in Florida with 48 percent followed by Romney at 25, and in South Carolina Gingrich hits 43 percent to Romney’s 20.
Of course, as has been the trend with this year’s primary process, voters are still unsure. The four polls show that between 48 to 55 percent of Republicans in each state may change their minds before it’s all said and done, with 34 to 44 percent of GOPers saying they are staying put with a candidate.
TPM reported earlier on Wednesday that there does seem to be some coalescing around Gingrich as the chief alternative to Romney, mainly because Gingrich is snapping up conservative support while still convincing GOP voters that he’s electable in a national matchup with Obama. But almost all public polling has shown the opposite to be true — Romney is still a superior candidate in both national and swing state contests against President Obama at the moment.
The CNN/TIME polls used live telephone interviews conducted from November 29th to December 6th with likely Republican voters. The Florida poll included 446 interviews with an sampling error of 4.5 percent. Iowa utilized 419 and had a margin of error of 5 percent. New Hampshire used 507 and had a sampling error of 4.5 percent, and South Carolina used 510 with a margin of error of 4.5 percent.
Kyle is the Editor of TPM Media’s PollTracker. He graduated from Beloit College (WI) and began working in politics before getting an M.A. in magazine journalism from New York University, where he interned at TPM and the website of The New Yorker.