Newt Gingrich was taken aback but not surprised when he was introduced in a Jefferson, Iowa, campaign stop as the "leading" candidate in the GOP race for the White House.
"It's the first time anybody, anywhere has introduced me as the leading candidate, which is kind of neat," a clearly pleased Gingrich said Monday.
With a new CNN poll showing he is the new "anybody-but-Mitt-Romney" candidate, the House speaker said he's not surprised voters are showing him new love.
The CNN/ORC International Poll
put Gingrich at 22 percent as the most likely nominee among Republicans and independents who lean GOP, compared with 24 percent for the former Massachusetts governor. Factoring in the poll’s small sampling error margin, that equates to a statistical tie.
The news is especially good for Gingrich because his support has jumped 14 points since October. Romney's numbers have held steady.
"Part of the reason people took a second look at what I'm doing is both I have the right language so I can explain it . . . but in addition I have solutions as large as the problems, that's a very important part of this," he said. "Most Americans are smart enough, when they pay attention, they can render pretty sophisticated judgments."
Gingrich has surged as Herman Cain has floundered amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
And Gingrich, who was House speaker from 1995-1999, once was an afterthought in the 2012 presidential race, polls show that he's at least tied with Romney among Republicans as the party casts about for an alternative.
Gingrich is happy to oblige as the new not-Romney.
"I have more substance than any other candidate in modern history," he said recently.
The CNN/ORC International Poll also indicates that Gingrich and Romney are the most popular Republican candidates among the GOP rank and file — and the only two with favorable ratings above 50 percent among the Republicans surveyed. Three-quarters say the two have the right qualities to be president.
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