Tea partyers overwhelmingly back Newt Gingrich to be the Republican presidential nominee, a huge poll of 29,000 people shows.
And despite claims that rival candidate Ron Paul is the grandfather of the grass-roots conservative movement, the Texas congressman comes out with the worst ratings in every single question asked in the survey.
More than half of the respondents said they believe Gingrich will win the nomination. Even more say he has the best chance of defeating President Barack Obama in the fall, while slightly under 50 percent say the former House speaker is their choice, according to the Grassfire Nation poll.
“Newt Gingrich appears to have solidified strong support from just under half the tea party movement. Now the question is no longer one of who has the most support within the movement, it’s more a matter of the movement’s ability [or inability] to outperform the traditional GOP primary voter base,” wrote Grassfire Nation media director Eric Odom.
When it came to stating which of the candidates is their least favorite, those surveyed picked Paul by an overwhelming majority over Mitt Romney, Gingrich, and Rick Santorum, in that order.
“For all the messaging we’ve seen about Ron Paul being the tea party granddaddy, it’s amazing that he fails to shine at any point in the survey,” Odom said.
“Ron Paul is clearly the least favorite out of the 29,000 surveyed, he’s perceived as the least likely nominee, and the tea party base views him as having the worst chances at defeating Barack Obama.
“This flies in the face of the argument that Ron Paul’s foreign policy isn’t damaging to his brand. On domestic policy one could easily assume Ron Paul wins hands down. It’s the foreign policy that immediately yanks him to the back of the line.”
When asked which candidate they would vote for in a primary or caucus, just over 48 percent said Gingrich, with Santorum at 25 percent; Romney, 15; and Paul, 12. When asked who ultimately would be the candidate, Gingrich had 55 percent, Romney 32, Santorum 7 and Paul 6.
But Gingrich really shone on the question of who is the best candidate to beat Obama, getting 57 percent, compared with Romney’s 23, Santorum’s 12, and Paul’s 9.
Gingrich and Santorum were the only two who more than half of the tea party supporters feel would be acceptable candidates. Gingrich scored 69 percent support; Santorum, 61; Romney, 43; and Paul, 22.
“That means every other tea party voter finds Romney totally unacceptable,” Odom said. “That’s a big problem for Romney in that the tea party movement is currently the most energized part of the Republican voter base.”
On the question of the least favorite, Paul easily outstripped the others with 57 percent; Romney scored 25; Gingrich, 13; and Santorum, 5.
The tea party supporters showed their allegiance to the Republican Party with 79 percent saying they would not support a conservative third-party candidate. Sixteen percent said they would and 5 percent said they were undecided.
“Hands down — no questions asked — there simply is no interest or support for such an effort,” Odom said.
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