Newt Gingrich’s attacks on Mitt Romney have helped Barack Obama considerably, but have not helped Newt Gingrich—should Gingrich be the Republican nominee for president, according to the latest Quinnipiac University polls released Wednesday and Today.
In a head-to-head contest, Obama and Romney are tied, 45-45 percent. For Obama, that’s an improvement from two weeks ago, when a Qunnipiac poll had him losing to Romney, 46 to 43 percent. In September, Romney had a 47-40 percent lead. But in a race against Gingrich, Obama would be the clear winner, with a 50-39 percent advantage. In other words Gingrich’s assault on Romney, fueled by $10 million in donations Sheldon Adelson, has mostly helped Obama despite the heavy sway Adelson, an Israel hawk, would have with South Florida’s influential and usually Democratic Jewish vote. (Adelson, the Boston Globe reports today, is “a megabillionaire casino mogul whose Las Vegas Sands Corp. is under federal investigation,” and “the self-proclaimed ‘richest Jew in the world.’”)
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum trails Obama 49 – 40 percent while Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul trails the president 47 – 39 percent.
The polls were conducted before Obama’s State of the Union address, which may have added a few points to his advantage (though those points generally aren’t built to last).
Looking ahead to next Tuesday’s primary, and throwing Obama out of the equation, Gingrich’s surge has wiped out Mitt Romney’s 12-point lead. The surge has steepened since the South Carolina primary, where Gingrich was the surprise and decisive winner. Overall in the Quinnipiac poll released yesterday, Romney still had a 36-34 percent advantage over Gingrich (a statistical tie), but among voters surveyed after the South Carolina primary, Gingrich was the clear favorite, with a 40-34 percent advantage. Just two weeks ago, Romney had a 36-24 percent lead.
Romney has been spending heavily on negative television advertising in most Florida markets, emphasizing a Gingrich win as making Obama very happy.
Romney is viewed by more likely primary voters as best able to handle the economy and most sharing voters’ values, while Gingrich is seen by more voters as having the knowledge and experience to be president, being a strong leader and better at handling foreign policy.
“Florida is essentially a dead heat and a two-man race between Gov. Mitt Romney and Speaker Newt Gingrich entering the last week of the campaign,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
“Gingrich’s South Carolina victory clearly gives him a boost in Florida. The question is whether there is more of that to come, or whether any bump from a previous victory will dissipate as happened to Rick Santorum in New Hampshire after winning Iowa and Romney in South Carolina after taking New Hampshire,” Brown said.
Gingrich gets 37 percent of men to 33 percent for Romney, while Romney is ahead 38 – 31 among women. Gingrich leads among white evangelical Christians 43 – 30 percent and among those who consider themselves to be tea party supporters 43 – 28 percent. Each makes up roughly a third of primary voters although there is substantial overlap among those two groups.
Romney is viewed more favorably, 71 – 19 percent, than is Gingrich, at 61 – 26 percent. Here again, Gingrich does better among voters polled after the South Carolina victory. Santorum gets a 58 – 13 percent favorability rating, while Paul gets a negative 36 – 40 percent score.
“Newt Gingrich’s edge is that he is the candidate with momentum and the one viewed as best on a host of issues and characteristics important to voters. Romney, however, holds the potential trump card that on the question most important to voters – who can best fix the economy – he is seen as the best candidate,” said Brown.
In a head-to-head contest with Obama, Romney is clearly seen by voters as the stronger candidate even as a plurality of Republican voters appear to be swinging to Gingrich.
“As our mothers told us growing up, ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression,’ and Speaker Newt Gingrich’s initial impression on the overall Florida electorate is not a positive one,” Brown said. “It is certainly possible that Gingrich can change the overall unfavorable view that Florida voters have of him, but for him to carry Florida in November he would have to prove mother wrong.
“But Romney has his own problems against Obama as Florida voters say both men are equally competent, but 54 – 39 percent that the president is more inspiring, 50 – 43 percent that Obama would a better job in a crisis and 48 – 42 percent that Obama cares more about them.”
Florida voters, however, say 50 – 41 percent that Romney would do a better job on the critical issue of the economy. Voters split 47 – 45 percent on Obama and Gingrich on the economy. Obama and Romney split 46 – 45 percent on who would best handle foreign policy. Obama tops Gingrich 49 – 43 percent on foreign policy. Obama and Romney also split 46 – 45 percent on who is a stronger leader. The president tops Gingrich 51 – 41 percent as a stronger leader. Voters say Obama is more trustworthy than Romney, 47 – 42 percent and 57 – 35 percent over Gingrich.
Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,518 registered voters from Jan. 19 to Jan. 23, with a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points. Live interviewers called land lines and cell phones.
The Live Poll:
Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading questionnaire tool.