Gallup: Gingrich Soars to Biggest Lead in GOP Race

Wednesday, 07 Dec 2011 10:24 AM

By Martin Gould

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Newt Gingrich has picked up virtually all of Herman Cain’s support in the days since the former pizza mogul dropped out of the Republican presidential race, according to a new Gallup poll.

Newt Gingrich, Gallup, romneyThe former House speaker now stands at 37 percent — higher than any other GOP candidate has had at any time during the race.

Cain was at 16 percent when the pollsters took their last national poll of registered Republicans nationwide. Since he dropped out, his fellow Georgian has soared by 15 percentage points.

In the new poll, taken during the weekend, Gingrich has a commanding lead over former front-runner Mitt Romney’s 22 percent. No other candidate is in double figures, while 14 percent still say they are either undecided or refused to say who they will vote for.

Romney’s support has not moved a single percentage point since the earlier poll taken in mid-November. Then he was just one point ahead of Gingrich, with Cain a further five points back. That survey came after initial reports that Cain had sexually harassed several women he had worked with in the late 1990s but before businesswoman Ginger White voiced her accusations that they had had a 13-year affair.

Announcing the results, Gallup pointed out that Gingrich is the seventh leader of its GOP polls in this race. Three — Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump, and Sarah Palin — ended up not running. The others are Romney, Cain, and Rick Perry, who now has slipped to fourth in the field with 7 percent. Many other polls had Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann leading at one point or another, but she never got to the top with Gallup.

“This is the latest in a series of front-runner changes that have marked the Republican nomination battle as one of the more volatile in the recent history of presidential politics,” Gallup’s analysis noted.

“Gingrich has mounted a strong comeback among Republicans nationwide after his nomination support dwindled to the low single digits this summer,” the pollsters added. “This happened amid news reports about a large credit account at Tiffany's, his extended summer vacation on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean, and the abrupt departure of his campaign staff.

“Now, aided by solid debate performances and benefiting from the campaign troubles of Bachmann, Perry, and Cain, Gingrich has emerged as the leader for the GOP nomination nationally. His 37 percent support level is the highest of any candidate Gallup has measured all year.”

Gallup called the race the “most topsy-turvy” Republican contest in nearly half a century: “Not since 1964, when the nominations were still decided at the conventions, has Gallup seen more movement in nomination preferences. That year, Barry Goldwater emerged as the nominee at the national Republican convention after a year of shifting Republican preferences.” Goldwater lost in a landslide to President Lyndon Johnson.

“At this point, Gingrich's primary competitor is Romney, whose support level has generally held remarkably stable in the low 20 percent range all year, even as other candidates have risen and fallen around him,” Gallup’s analysis said.

“Gingrich's strength among tea party supporters and conservatives suggests that he may have a turnout advantage in early caucus and primary states if these groups display their usual disproportionate participation. Gingrich's strength in the South may also bode well for his positioning in the crucial early primary states of South Carolina and Florida, while Romney's Eastern strength plays to his advantage in New Hampshire.”

The figures show that Gingrich has far higher support among men than women, with 43 percent of males saying they will support him, and only 30 percent of females. The gender-gap figures for all the other candidates are within 1 percentage point, although 22 percent of women and only 12 percent of men say they are undecided.

The latest poll was taken from Dec. 1-5. Cain dropped out of the race on Dec. 3 and his supporters’ votes from the first three days were allocated to their second preferences. Gallup said he was running at around 7 percent at the time he quit the race.

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