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Nov. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Now it’s Newt Gingrich’s turn to be the Republican presidential front-runner.
The former U.S. House speaker from Georgia is the preferred nominee of 26 percent of Republican voters, with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney second at 22 percent, according a national poll released today by Quinnipiac University.
Gingrich’s support is more than double the 10 percent backing for him in an Oct. 25-31 Quinnipiac survey. His surge came at the expense of businessman Herman Cain, who led the earlier poll with 30 percent, followed by Romney at 23 percent.
Allegations surfaced Oct. 30 that Cain sexually harassed women while serving as head of the National Restaurant Association in the Late 1990s. Though Cain has denied the accusations, his drop to third place in the new poll with 14 percent indicates the controversy has hurt him.
“When it comes to the Republican horse race, the scenario hasn’t changed much over the past few months -- just the players,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of Hamden, Connecticut-based Quinnipiac’s polling institute, in a statement.
Brown said Gingrich’s rise, like those of other Republicans previously, was “powered by conservatives who remain skeptical” about Romney.
‘Flavor’ of Month
In addition to Cain, Republican candidates who have seen their backing swell and recede in polls while Romney’s support has remained steady are: U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, who won the Iowa straw poll in August, and Texas Governor Rick Perry, who led an Aug. 16-27 Quinnipiac survey.
“The question for Gingrich, as was the case for U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, Governor Rick Perry and Herman Cain, is whether he just the flavor of the month or whether he can sustain his meteoric rise,” Brown said.
The poll of 1,039 registered Republican voters was taken Nov. 14-20 and has an error margin of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.
Recent surveys by CNN, USA Today and Fox News also have shown Gingrich leading the Republican field.
Bloomberg News reported on Nov. 16 that Gingrich was paid between $1.6 million and $1.8 million in consulting fees by the mortgage company Freddie Mac, an agency that in his presidential campaign he has blamed for helping cause the U.S. housing market’s mortgage crisis.
Knowledge of Washington
Gingrich has rejected suggestions he would suffer politically from having been a paid consultant for an agency he is attacking, saying his Freddie Mac work would remind voters of his knowledge of Washington.
Even as Gingrich rose to first in the Quinnipiac poll, Republicans surveyed in it said Romney, by 38 percent to 23 percent, has a better chance of defeating President Barack Obama in next year’s election.
Romney also performed better in a matchup with Obama. Among 2,552 registered voters surveyed, 45 percent chose Obama and 44 percent supported Romney, within the 1.9 percentage-point margin of error for the sample. Obama led Gingrich, 49 percent to 40 percent.
In addition, Romney was the only Republican candidate viewed more favorably than unfavorably by the poll’s entire sample, 36 percent to 31 percent. Gingrich was viewed unfavorably by 42 percent and favorably by 30 percent.
For Obama, the figures were 47 percent favorable, 46 percent unfavorable.
“The key to Romney will be retaining the perception of being a winner, while convincing skeptical conservatives that he shares their views and values,” Brown said.
--Editors: Don Frederick, Justin Blum
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