[Hamden, CT] Earlier this month, Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had a 12-point lead over Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in Florida Republican primary polling. But that was before Gingrich’s somewhat stunning win in South Carolina and several recent spot-on debate performances.
Now Romney and Gingrich are tied, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. And voters (who haven’t cast ballots already) head to the booths on Tuesday (Jan. 31).
“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 A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
The numbers are actually 36% for Romney and 34% for Gingrich among likely voters in the Florida Republican primary for president. The 2% falls within the poll’s margin of error, so essentially they are tied.
“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 added.
What should really worry Romney is that Gingrich gets 40% to his 34% among likely voters surveyed after the South Carolina primary. People do like a winner, and folks in Florida relate much more to people in South Carolina than they do in Iowa or New Hampshire. Drop-out Rick Perry also endorsed Gingrich six days ago.
Mitt Romney can’t believe he’s tied with Newt Gingrich in the latest Republican primary poll
And don’t forget that there are two other candidates in the race, although it is clear neither of them have a shot of winning Florida. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum sits at 13% while Texas Congressman Ron Paul polls last at 10%.
Romney should feel some measure of satisfaction as his 36% is the same 36% he had earlier this month (Jan. 9), so he isn’t losing anybody’s support just yet. But Gingrich certainly is surging gaining twelve points in two weeks.
Still, there are some wild cards out there as 38% say they might change their mind. Maybe that’s what Paul and Santorum are banking on. Mostly Santorum, Paul doesn’t really have a chance as he has yet to win anything.
The polling shows that Romney is viewed “as best able to handle the economy and most sharing voters’ values” while Gingrich is seen “as having the knowledge and experience to be president, being a strong leader and better at handling foreign policy.”
Gingrich is favored by men and Romney is favored by women (not a surprise there). Gingrich has strong leads with white evangelical Christians (43%–30%) and tea party supporters (43%– 28%).
Can Rick Santorum come from behind in the Florida Republican primary?
But what makes this match-up so interesting and complex is that Romney is viewed more favorably than Gingrich. Santorum is also rated high when it comes to favorability, while Paul is actually in the negative.
“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.
Romney is also seen as the candidate best able to defeat President Obama, the poll shows. And voters say they prefer “a candidate who can defeat President Obama over one who shares their values,” which should help Romney ultimately nudge out Gingrich.
Should? Yes. Will he? There’s nothing predictable about this race for the hearts and minds of Florida’s Republican primary voters.
From Jan. 19–23, Quinnipiac University surveyed 601 Republican likely primary voters with a margin of error of +/- 4%. The survey includes 254 voters surveyed Jan. 19–21, before South Carolina results were announced, with a margin of error of +/- 6.2%, and 347 voters surveyed Jan. 22–23, after the South Carolina results, with a margin of error of +/- 5.3%.
The Quinnipiac University Poll, directed by Douglas Schwartz, Ph.D., conducts public opinion surveys in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Ohio, Virginia and the nation as a public service and for research.
By: Mark Christopher/Sunshine Slate
Images: Mark Christopher/Sunshine Slate Images