Polls showing Newt Gingrich strongly ahead of Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential race continue to pour in. The latest: A Wall Street Journal/NBC News
survey finds former House Speaker Gingrich leading former Massachusetts Gov. Romney 40 percent to 23 percent among likely GOP voters. That’s the biggest lead any candidate has held in the poll this year.
The other candidates trail far behind: Texas Rep. Ron Paul with 9 percent support, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann with 8 percent support, Texas Gov. Rick Perry with 6 percent, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman with 5 percent, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum with 3 percent.
Gingrich’s lead grows even bigger if it’s a two-man race between him and Romney: 59 to 36 percent. In a three-man contest among Gingrich, Romney, and Paul, Gingrich scores 53 percent; Romney, 31 percent; and Paul, 13 percent.
Against President Barack Obama, Romney trails 47 percent to 45 percent, within the poll’s margin of error, while Gingrich trails 51 percent to 40 percent.
To show how quickly the dynamic has changed, Gingrich received only 13 percent support in the November poll, trailing Romney with 28 percent and retired businessman Herman Cain with 27 percent.
To be sure, Gingrich doesn’t fare as well among independent voters as Romney does. Half of all voters say they wouldn't vote for Gingrich if he were the Republican nominee, compared with 44 percent who feel the same way about Romney. Romney’s total fell 3 percentage points from November and puts him in a better position than Obama. Among all voters, 45 percent say they won’t vote for the president.
Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the survey along with Democratic pollster Peter Hart, noted that both Gingrich and Romney "are not in particularly good shape in terms of overall good standing in the country" outside of their strength within the GOP.
For example, Gingrich struggles among Hispanics. A large majority said they wouldn’t vote for him, which puts Gingrich behind former President George W. Bush, who won at least 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004.
Romney, meanwhile, remains steady as she goes, receiving about 25 percent support from Republican voters for months. Ominously for him, though, the number of Republican primary voters who view him negatively has risen since June, while those who feel "very positive" about him fell by half.
But the good news for Republicans is that Obama is faring poorly in the polls himself. Almost 70 percent of Americans say the country is on the wrong track, down only slightly from last month. And 48 percent disapprove of the president’s job performance. A majority, 57 percent, are disappointed with his handling of the economy, which is likely to be the key issue in next year’s election.
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