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Mirroring the fate of other frontrunners in the roller coaster ride to the GOP nomination, last week’s frontrunner is this week’s also ran as former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich falls from first to third in the latest Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul has a narrow lead over Mitt Romney — 23 to 20 percent — with 14 percent for Gingrich. Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry tie for fourth with 10 percent while Jon Huntsman trails a distant fifth at 4 percent and Gary Johnson brings up the rear with 2 percent.
When you factor in the poll’s margin of error, Paul and Romney are essentially tied.
“Newt Gingrich’s campaign is rapidly imploding,” PPP said in a press release for the latest poll.
“Gingrich’s campaign in the latest sinking in a political war where many ships have been lost in a sea of changing voter attitudes,” a GOP consultant told Capitol Hill Blue. “Ron Paul and Mitt Romney are the frontrunners now.”
Paul’s base of support continues to rely on some unusual groups for a Republican contest. Among voters under 45 he’s at 33% to 16% for Romney and 11% for Gingrich. He’s really going to need that younger than normal electorate because with seniors Romney’s blowing him out 31-15 with Gingrich coming in 2nd at 18%. Paul is also cleaning up 35-14 with the 24% of voters who identify as either Democrats or independents. Romney is actually ahead 22-19 with GOP voters. Young people and non-Republicans are an unusual coalition to hang your hat on in Iowa, and it will be interesting to see if Paul can actually pull it off.
Romney’s vote share is up 4 points from a week ago to 20% from it previous 16% standing. His favorability numbers have improved a little bit as well from 48/44 to 49/40. One thing Romney really has going for him is more room for growth than Paul. Among voters who say they’re not firmly committed to their current candidate choice, Romney is the second choice for 19% compared to 17% for Perry, 15% for Bachmann, and only 13% for Paul. It’s particularly worth noting that among Gingrich- who seems more likely to keep falling than turn it around- voters, he’s the second choice of 30% compared to only 11% for Paul.
In addition to having more support right now Paul also has firmer support (73% solidly committed) than Romney does (68% solidly committed.) But at the same time Romney appears to have more room for growth, which could allow him to overtake Paul in the last two weeks.
Two other notes on Romney: he’s now winning the electability primary- 25% of voters think he would have the best chance to defeat Obama compared to 17% for Gingrich and 16% for Paul. And he also leads Paul 24-18 among voters who watched the Sioux City debate on Thursday night, confirming general perception that he had the stronger performance.
Gingrich has dropped 13 percentage points from a high of 27 percent just two weeks ago. Like other GOP frontrunners, he surged to the front as the GOP flavor of the month and then faded.
“People started taking a closer look at Gingrich and they didn’t like what they saw,” says Iowa GOP activist Carlene Wilson.
With two weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses, the race is shaping up as a two-man contest between Paul and Romney but — given the volatility of the GOP electorate this year — that could change.
“With six candidates in double digits there are still a lot of different things that could happen the final two weeks in Iowa,” PPP says. “But it looks like Paul and Romney have emerged as the clear front runners.”