Poll: Romney Now Has 11 Point Lead Over Gingrich In Florida (UPDATED 2)
A new Reuters/Ipsos online poll mirrors what most polls are finding: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney seems to have Big Mo in Florida while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s poll numbers are going anywhere but in the direction of the moon:
White House hopeful Mitt Romney widened his lead over rival Newt Gingrich to 11 percentage points in Florida, according to Reuters/Ipsos online poll results on Saturday, up from 8 points a day earlier, as he cemented his front-runner status in the Republican nomination race.
With just three days remaining before Florida’s Republican primary, Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, led Gingrich, a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, by 43 percent to 32 percent among likely voters in Florida’s January 31 primary, the online poll said.
He had led Gingrich by 41 percent to 33 percent in the online tracking poll on Friday.
“The momentum in Florida … really seems to be moving in Romney’s direction,” said Chris Jackson, research director for Ipsos Public Affairs.
The poll confirmed that Romney’s fortunes are turning around in Florida a week after a stinging setback when Gingrich scored an upset win in South Carolina’s primary.
Romney has moved ahead of Gingrich in several Florida polls, after turning in his strongest debate performance yet in the seesawing race for the Republican nomination to oppose Democratic President Barack Obama’s bid for re-election in November.
Reuters also notes something that many have predicted: some of Gingrich’s voters may be leaving him to go to former Senator Rick Santorum, who some feel actually “won” the debate but who many feel has no chance of getting the nomination:
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum trailed well behind with 16 percent support, but he had gained ground from 13 percent in Friday’s results.
“It seems like some people who are leaving Gingrich are moving to the other conservative in the race, Rick Santorum,” Jackson said.
The Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman has a must read piece titled “Newt Gingrich Campaign Leaking Hot Air Ahead Of Florida Primary, GOP Insiders Say.” The metaphor of Gingrich and hot air seems fitting, indeed.
Here’s a condensed version of Fineman’s spot-on analysis:
What happened to Newt Gingrich? Less than a week after Gingrich’s stunning triumph in South Carolina, air is leaking from his momentarily front-running campaign faster than a parade balloon’s after Thanksgiving.
Besides the obvious fact that the new combat-enabled, armored-up Mitt Romney clobbered Gingrich last night, are there other reasons? Yes, based on conversations with Republican and campaign insiders here and in Florida:
Here are the factors he sees:
The Palin Factor. Some D.C.-based establishment types were preparing to reconcile themselves to former House Speaker Gingrich, if not outright endorse him, before or after the South Carolina primary last week. But according to one such insider, who asked not to be identified because of her prominent corporate lobbying role, Gingrich fatally said on Jan. 18 — three days before the primary — that he would offer former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin a “major role in the next administration if I’m president.”
I’ve often tried to explain to those who idolize Palin that she is an acquired taste. And moderates, independents, centrist Democrats AND many moderate Republicans have not acquired it and can’t see how some can. She is truly a polarizing figure. When she champions someone strongly, there are voters who’ll run the other way. Fineman correctly notes that some GOPers do as well (just search Karl Rove’s comments on Palin).
The Rubio Factor. The popular Cuban-American senator from Florida has not endorsed a candidate, but he doesn’t need to. He devastated Gingrich by complaining — vehemently — about an ad the Gingrich campaign had run calling Romney “the most anti-immigrant candidate,” and implying that Romney had parroted the words of Fidel Castro.
Bravo to Rubio. This shows that there are limits (even though they may not apply to everyone) on political polemics and members of a part will call someone out on it.
The Moon Factor. A science-fiction fan and self-described “grandiose” thinker, Gingrich took it all too far when he vowed to establish an American space colony on the moon by the end of his second term. Even in Florida, where they love them some space exploration, it seemed an extravagant notion at a time when half the home mortgages in the state are under water.
I thought Gingrich already lived on the moon.
But, seriously folks, there’s nothing wrong with a plan for a colony on the moon. It’s just that a)the cost would be astromical and b)it looks like and is pandering to get votes from NASA people in Florida.
The Wolf Factor. Gingrich was unable to bully his way past the savvy and imperturbable Wolf Blitzer as CNN moderator last night when the former speaker tried to decry the role of the mainstream media.
Blitzer was simply acting as MOST trained journalists would act. You do NOT let an interview subject intimidate you during an interview or change the subject or not answer a question within asking them several times. Bravo also to John King — belatedly. He later got Gingrich to admit that some of Gingrich’s outrage aimed at a question he asked was peppered with inaccuracies. But Blitzer later said on CNN he was ready for Gingrich — Gingrich has played the anti-press card in almost every debate — and was not going to let him “get away with it.” I know countless reporters who would not let an interview subject go on the offense without calling them on it. I was one myself in my newspaper days.
The O’Donnell Factor. Debate coach Brett O’Donnell, formerly working for Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.), earned his pay by coaching Romney in his answer about the role of faith in presidential decision-making.
You could argue this meant that Romney was better scripted and rehearsed. But you could also argue that he had not properly organized his thoughts to make his case and needed more coaching. During the debate last week Romney sounded at times like he was repeating rehearsals by rote. But you did feel like you saw more of the “real” Romney.
I considered this debate a bit akin to the Kennedy Nixon debates. As Chris Matthews notes in his superb by overly hyped by Matthews book on JFK, Kennedy studied and went over key points on index cards. Nixon initially didn’t prepare as thoroughly. Gingrich seemed as if he let his guard down since he was the front runner and had not done the prep. A fatal mistake.
– Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain endorsed Newt Gingrich Saturday at an event in West Palm Beach, Florida.
“I hereby officially and enthusiastically endorse Newt Gingrich for president of the United States,” Cain said during a meeting of the Palm Beach County Republican Party.
Cain cited the former House speaker’s “bold ideas” as the basis for his choice, saying Gingrich wasn’t afraid to propose big ideas that would benefit the nation, even if they invited the ridicule of his rivals.
“There are many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is that I know that Speaker Gingrich is a patriot,” Cain said. “Speaker Gingrich is not afraid of bold ideas and I also know that Speaker Gingrich is running for president and going through this sausage grinder. I know what this sausage grinder is all about. I know that he is going through this sausage grinder because he cares about the future of the United States of America.”
Cain’s endorsement won’t hurt Gingrich. Yes, Cain had his (big) problems and he “suspended” his campaign. But he isn’t a total turn off to huge segments of voters such as Gingrich-champion Sarah Palin or talker Mark Levin. In fact, I predict Cain has an extremely bright future as a Fox News host and/or political celebrity who appears on some late night shows. He remains likeable. But will it help Gingrich? Unlikely.
War Room Logisitics, the Republican polling and consulting firm in Gainesville, reported conducting another large robo-poll sample*** (1,632) in Florida on Jan. 27 (a day after the debate) that shows Mitt Romney is in a commanding lead in the Republican presidential race. Connie Mack is doing even better in the Republican Senate race. And a majority of Republicans support casino-style gaming.
Mitt Romney: 40%
Newt Gingrich: 30%
Rick Santorum: 15%
Ron Paul 6%
Is it over for Gingrich? War Room’s consultant, Alex Patton, says it sure looks like it. But things aren’t always as they appear. His statement:
“I give up predicting anything this election cycle with 8 percent still undecided and a MOE of 2.5, theoretically Gingrich is still within striking distance. However, the trend is not in his favor.
“The last two debates saw Romney find his voice and get his sea legs under him after a lethargic South Carolina performance. The debates were critical to Romney’s lead, and whomever is Mitt Romney’s debate coach deserves a raise.
“I also think Romney is benefiting from weeks of unfettered tv time and months of field work in Florida.
“It all appears to be coming together and breaking his way.”
PPP finds the same thing in its newest Florida poll that all surveys of the state have found in the last few days: strong movement away from Newt Gingrich and toward Mitt Romney. Romney now leads with 40% to 32% for Gingrich, 15% for Rick Santorum, and 9% for Ron Paul. Romney has gained 7 points and Gingrich has dropped by 6 since our last poll, which was conducted Sunday and Monday.
It’s clear that the negative attacks on Gingrich have been the major difference maker over the last week. His net favorability has declined 13 points from +23 (57/34) to only +10 (50/40) in just five days. Romney has pretty much stayed in place. At the beginning of the week he was at +31 (61/30) and now he’s at +33 (64/31).
Santorum is actually the most well liked candidate among Florida voters with 65% seeing him favorably to 24% with a negative opinion. In Iowa Santorum’s persistently high favorability ratings were a precursor to his late surge. But as popular as he is, he’s only gone from 13% to 15% support in the last week. It seems unlikely that he’ll be able to break into the top two.
The backbone of Romney’s support in Florida is senior citizens. He’s getting 50% of their voters with Gingrich at only 28%. Romney also appears to have a pretty good sized lead in the bank. Among those who have already voted he’s at 45% to 35% for Gingrich.