According to the first round of post-South Carolina polling, Newt Gingrich has opened up a lead in the upcoming Florida primary.
A new Public Policy Polling survey shows Gingrich ahead of Mitt Romney by a 38 to 33 percent margin. Rick Santorum is in third place with 13 percent, and Ron Paul is in fourth with 10 percent.
The poll confirms that Gingrich is surging in the wake of his surprisingly comfortable victory in the South Carolina primary; Gingrich has gained 12 points and Romney has lost 8 since PPP’s previous Florida survey, which was conducted a week ago.
“Newt Gingrich is the new Florida front runner,” Public Policy Polling President Dean Debnam said in a release. “We’re seeing the same sort of stunning reversal there that we saw in South Carolina last week. Mitt Romney’s not showing the ability to close the deal.”
The PPP survey is full of good news for Gingrich. 78 percent of Gingrich supporters said that they’ll definitely vote for the former Speaker (compared to 73 percent of committed Romney voters,) suggesting that Gingrich may be able to ride out a storm of negative advertising better than he did in Iowa. Additionally, Rick Santorum’s supporters told PPP that they prefer Gingrich over Romney by a 50 to 23 percent margin, suggesting that Gingrich would greatly benefit if Santorum drops out of the race at some point in the next week. In a two man race between Gingrich and Romney, Gingrich would lead by 10 points.
In another indication that Gingrich’s message has been resonating with Republicans, 52 percent of respondents said that Gingrich’s views are “about right” compared to just 42 percent for Romney. 25 percent said that Romney is “too liberal,” while just 14 percent of voters think that about Gingrich.
The survey did contain some good news for Romney. The former Massachusetts governor has 43-40 percent lead over Gingrich among the 16 percent of respondents who have already cast their ballots using Florida’s early voting system, and Romney’s 61 percent favorability rating is 4 points higher than Gingrich’s.
The PPP survey is the third major poll to show Gingrich in the driver’s seat in Florida. A Rasmussen survey which was released yesterday shows Gingrich leading Romney 41 percent to 32 percent (a remarkable swing from their previous survey, which had Romney leading Florida by 22 points,) and an InsiderAdvantage poll released Sunday had Gingrich leading Romney 34 percent to 26 percent.
UPDATE: The Gingrich surge isn’t limited to Florida. According to the most recent Gallup tracking poll, Gingrich has erased Romney’s national lead as well. The two candidates are now virtually tied among Republican voters across the country, with Romney at 29 percent and Gingrich at 28 percent. Gingrich has gained 14 points and Romney has dropped 8 points over the past week, confirming that Republicans nationwide have taken notice of Gingrich’s strong debate performances and subsequent rise in South Carolina.