Voters are evenly divided over whether Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney would provide President Barack Obama with the strongest GOP challenge next November, according to a new Rasmussen Reports poll.
But twice as many Republican voters feel that the former House speaker would have a better chance of beating Obama in the race for the White House.
The national survey of 1,000 voters of all political persuasions gave Gingrich a mathematically negligible lead over Romney of 30 percent to 29 percent. None of the other GOP candidates polled in double figures.
But when only likely Republican primary voters were asked the same question, 49 percent said they preferred Gingrich, with just 24 percent giving the nod to Romney.
The poll showed that Gingrich still has a way to go to persuade women that he would be a better candidate than the former Massachusetts governor. Among men, Gingrich leads Romney by 37 percent to 26 percent, but women asked the same question said they prefer Romney by 32 percent to 23 percent. Female voters were also twice as likely not to have an opinion on the subject.
The poll, which was conducted Saturday and Sunday, has a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Rasmussen says it has a 95 percent “level of confidence” in the results.
Voters were also asked which of the seven leading GOP candidates would do worst against Obama. In that poll, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann was considered the weakest candidate by 30 percent of respondents, scoring more than double over the next-worst, Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Women gave Bachmann, the only female in the race, an even lower rating than men did. Romney at 4 percent and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum at 7 percent were considered the least-worst candidates.
When it came to individual policies, Gingrich was considered the strongest Republican candidate when it comes to national security, scoring four times the vote of second-best Romney. He also beat Romney on both the economy and health care, each time with a margin of 3-2. However, Obama beats all the Republican candidates on all three of those issues.
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