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UPDATE: Tuesday's GOP primary in Florida is shaping up to be a blowout. The latest poll numbers out Monday show Mitt Romney with a 20-point lead on rival Newt Gingrich with only one day to go.
The Suffolk University/7NEWS survey of likely GOP voters showed Romney besting one-time front-runner Gingrich 47 percent to 27. Rick Santorum is in third with 12 percent, followed closely by Ron Paul with 9 percent.
"It is almost certain that Mitt Romney will top his 39 percent showing in New Hampshire," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. "This poll also tells us that Romney could reverse and exceed Newt Gingrich’s percentage and margin in South Carolina—and do it in Gingrich’s backyard."
Romney's camp has invested heavily in an early-voting campaign in the Sunshine State, and it appears to have paid off. The former Massachusetts governor topped Gingrich by 31 points, 55-24, among those who said they've already cast ballots in the nominating contest.
Monday, Jan. 30: Mitt Romney widened his lead in Florida over the weekend as the last fumes from Newt Gingrich's South Carolina momentum dissipated in the Sunshine State.
According to Reuters, Romney's lead had grown to 12 percentage points as of Sunday. Even more striking is Newt's decline in the three-day Reuters poll's hypothetical head-to-head between the two front-runners: On Friday, Gingrich and Romney were two percentage points apart, with Romney barely leading. On Saturday, the gap was eight percentage points. On Sunday, 11.
Romney and his largest super PAC backer, Restore Our Future, may have reason to believe that the $6.8 million in ads they spent in Florida this week was a worthy investment. It's certainly taking its toll on the Gingrich campaign, with even ideologically sympathetic voters choosing Romney over the former House speaker.
The Associated Press went to the Pensacola area in the Florida panhandle, near the Alabama border. It's one of the most conservative parts of the state, and probably the best bet to find Gingrich supporters—hard-core conservative Republicans who don't trust Romney's conservative cred. But, in interviews, the AP found a lot of easy sells for Gingrich going Romney instead. Voters cited their doubts about both his electability and his character, with one Florida resident saying he'll vote Romney as the most "electable" candidate against Obama, calling him "the lesser of two evils."
Sunday, Jan. 29: The closer it gets to Florida’s primary, the more it looks like the Sunshine State will be Newt Gingrich’s Waterloo. He went into Florida with great expectations after winning the South Carolina contest, but Mitt Romney has surged ahead over the past few days, regaining the confidence and positive attitude that comes with being a front-runner. Former candidate Herman Cain endorsed Gingrich late Saturday, a development that seems unlikely to change the dynamic of the race, although it could infuse the former speaker’s campaign with some much-needed energy.
Romney has an 11-point lead over Gingrich in Florida, according to a new Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times poll released Saturday night that also shows the former Massachusetts governor beating President Obama in a head-to-head matchup, although within the margin of error. “Romney’s lead looks insurmountable,” writes the Herald. “It cuts across geographic, ethnic and gender lines.”
A new NBC News/Marist poll shows Romney with an even bigger lead of 15 points and has him trailing Obama by eight points. And continuing the trend, a Reuters/Ipsos online poll from Saturday has Romney widening his lead to 11 percentage points, three points higher than a day earlier, seemingly illustrating how momentum is on Romney’s side, reports Reuters.
On Saturday, Gingrich vowed to go “all the way to the convention” but he seemed to express some doubts Sunday, when he said that he needed a strong showing in Florida to save his campaign, reports Bloomberg. Signs of the waning enthusiasm for Gingrich are seemingly everywhere in Florida. Welcomed by huge crowds when he arrived in the state following his South Carolina victory, audiences have grown smaller and smaller.
Meanwhile, Romney has clearly changed his strategy from early in the week. Right after he was roundly defeated in South Carolina, Romney fired off lots of attacks against Gingrich. “But the past few days, while Gingrich takes bitter swipe after bitter swipe at him, Romney has hardly attacked his rival at all,” writes the Washington Post. “When he has, his lines have been more humorous than high-handed.”
Romney's campaign is still working to cement doubts about Gingrich, but the candidate is letting ads and surrogates do the talking. Over the weekend, an ad began running in the state made almost entirely of a 1997 NBC News report. The network has asked the campaign to stop airing the ad, but Romney’s staff insists it falls under fair use, notes the Associated Press.
How did Romney come back so quickly after what could have been a devastating defeat? In part it was a question of discipline. His campaign had long been ready for a long nomination battle, but it “became so confident during primary season that it failed to see Mr. Gingrich’s latest resurgence coming, presuming that he had been left for dead in Iowa,” writes the New York Times. More than that though, it was about going on the offensive as his campaign “pressed everything at its disposal into service to eviscerate Mr. Gingrich.”
Romney also managed to blunt what was one of Gingrich’s strongest assets: his debate performance. Politico includes Romney’s ability to come out on top in Florida's debates as one of five reasons behind his resurgence, noting how the campaign was able to work smaller events to the former governor’s advantage. Yet not all of it was Romney’s doing. Gingrich helped him out too, particularly with his much-mocked proposal to have a moon colony in place by 2020.
Friday, Jan. 27: Fresh off a strong debate performance in Florida, Mitt Romney and his presidential campaign got another dose of good news Friday in the form two new polls showing the former Massachusetts governor with a near double-digit lead on Newt Gingrich.
The latest surveys—from Quinnipiac and the Sunshine State News—both show Romney up by 9 points with only days to go until Florida's Jan. 31 GOP nominating contest. Those results mirror two other major surveys from earlier this week, which had him up 8 points on his chief rival.
The Sunshine survey shows Romney leading 40-31, with a margin of error of 3.3 points, and Quinnipiac has him up 38-29, with a margin of error of 4.1. Both were taken over a three-day stretch that ended Thursday, the day of the final GOP debate in Florida.
Real Clear Politics, which keeps a running average of recent poll results, has Romney averaging a lead of 7.2 percent in the past six major polls, all of which he leads.
Meanwhile, the fight for third place in Florida remains a toss up between Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. RCP shows Santorum ahead, on average, by a little less than 2 percent. The primary is a winner-take-all affair in terms of delegates, but a stronger-than-expected showing in the final tally would give either candidate a much-needed shot of momentum heading forward.
Thursday, Jan. 26: Mitt Romney appears to have righted the ship in Florida for the time being.
After watching Newt Gingrich soar past him in the Sunshine State polls following South Carolina, Romney appears to have reversed the trend and now leads in a handful of the same surveys with only days until Florida's winner-take-all primary.
A new CNN/Time poll has Romney up 36-34, while the Rasmussen Reports and Insider Advantage have him sitting in front by 8 points over Gingrich. Earlier this week, Rasmussen and Insider showed Gingrich with leads of 9 and 8 points, respectively. All of Romney's leads, however, are at or near the margin of error for the polls, so don't count out either man in the key early primary just yet.
The GOP field meets on stage for a CNN debate Thursday evening, which could provide the latest in a series of polling shakeups.
Tuesday, Jan. 24: More polls, more good news for Newt Gingrich.
Not only has the former House speaker pulled away from Mitt Romney in Florida, he's also managed to erase his rival's lead in the national polls. (The Weigel disclaimer: There are no national primaries.)
A new Gallup survey has Gingrich pulling within 1 percentage point of Romney among likely Republican voters nationwide, (Romney 29, Gingrich 28) well within the poll's 4-point margin of error. Only a little more than a week ago, Romney led by 23 points in the same poll. What's worse for the longtime front-runner: the most recent survey took place during a five-day stretch that ended this past Sunday, meaning that the numbers may not completely reflect any bump that Gingrich may get from his Saturday win in South Carolina.
Meanwhile, Ron Paul currently sits in third place, with a two-point lead on Rick Santorum, who is polling at 11 percent. In the previous Gallup poll, Santorum was the one with a two-point lead for the final podium spot.
Here's the analysis from Gallup's Frank Newport:
"The virtual evaporation of Romney's 20-plus-point lead over the last week suggests that Republicans most certainly have not settled on the former Massachusetts governor as their final choice for the nominee. The fact that Gingrich has managed to resurrect his standing in the polls once again suggests that Republicans have most certainly not ruled him out."
Monday, Jan. 23: Fresh off his rather dominating win in South Carolina over the weekend, Newt Gingrich has opened up a lead in Florida, the next battleground in what is becoming an increasingly unpredictable battle for the Republican nomination.
A pair of polls out Monday show the former House speaker with a near double-digit lead over Mitt Romney in the Sunshine State. Rasmussen Reports shows Gingrich's lead at 9 points, 41-32, while a new Insider Advantage poll has the gap at 8 points, 34-26.
Before Saturday's primary results, most observers had expected Romney to have the advantage in Florida, a state with more moderates than South Carolina and one that traditionally requires large amounts of campaign cash to compete. But that conventional thinking is now in doubt, as Gingrich rides into town on a wave of momentum that appeared only days before the South Carolina primary and carried him to a 12-point win in the Palmetto State.
Monday's polls also show a toss-up for third place, with Ron Paul leading Rick Santorum by two points, 13-11, in the Insider poll and Santorum up by 3 points in the Rasmussen survey, 11-8. While Paul plans on participating in the Florida debates this week, his camp has more or less abandoned the state in order to spend its limited resources in other states that don't feature a winner-take-all delegate system, as Florida does.
The margin of error in both polls is +/- 4 percent.