Elections 2012: Newt Gingrich Leads in New Iowa Presidential Poll

Newt Gingrich is the new front-runner in Iowa, which holds the first of next year’s US presidential nominating contests

A surge in support for Republican White House hopeful Newt Gingrich has made him the new front-runner in Iowa, which holds the first of next year's presidential nominating contests, according to a closely watched opinion poll published on Saturday. Photo: Marc Langsam/Flickr

Gingrich, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, has support from 25 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers, up from just 7 percent in late October, the poll conducted for The Des Moines Register newspaper found.

Texas Representative Ron Paul and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney finished second and third, with support at 18 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

Support for Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann and former pizza magnate Herman Cain, who dropped out of the race on Saturday, was tied at 8 percent.

The poll was conducted before Cain suspended his candidacy on Saturday.

The Iowa caucuses, set for Jan. 3, kick off the state-by-state contests to choose the party presidential nominee who will challenge Democratic President Barack Obamain the November 2012 election.

Newt Gingrich just this week opened a campaign office in Iowa and has rehired staff, including two campaign advisers who had resigned in June.

 “We’ve got some Newt-mentum going for us here,” said Gingrich campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond.

“We’re not hiding the fact that our ground game is a little behind the ball. But what we lack in time we’ll make up with intensity and intelligence,” said Hammond. “Iowa is a top priority,” he said.

Gingrich’s support stood at just 7% in the most recent Iowa Poll, conducted Oct. 23-26. His rapid rise mirrors Cain’s dramatic fall. Cain led the October Iowa Poll, with 23% support.

Even before polling began, Cain’s numbers had sagged from his October heights as he battled accusations of sexual harassment and perceptions that he lacked knowledge on foreign policy issues.

On the first day of polling, his support stood at 12%. On the second of four days of calling, Atlanta businesswoman Ginger White went public with her accusation of a 13-year extramarital affair. His support dropped steadily over the four-day poll to 4%Wednesday.

Several recent national polls have shown Gingrich potentially gaining the most ground among Cain supporters in the event the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO dropped out of the race. According to the Register: “More respondents choose Gingrich as their second choice than any other candidate. Together, 43 percent of likely caucusgoers pick him as first or second.”

Ironically, the candidates who have spent the most time in Iowa have remained stagnant in the polls. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) earned eight percent support in Saturday night’s Registerpoll; former Sen. Rick Santorum received the backing of six percent; while Texas Gov. Rick Perry clocks in at six percent.

The latest Iowa Poll shows a slip in support for Mitt Romney, who had 22% support in late October. Iowa has a large bloc of conservative voters distrustful of Romney’s past support for abortion rights and a Massachusetts healthcare overhaul that was a precursor of Obama’s federal law.

Still, Romney got some good news on Saturday as he drew the endorsement of the Sioux City Journal, which described him as the candidate most capable of “articulating a blueprint for a stronger economy and the restoration of fiscal sanity in Washington.”

The poll indicated that voter preferences are far from set in stone – 60% of Republicans likely to participate in a caucus said they are still willing to change their mind about which candidate to support.

In 2008, the poll correctly predicted wins for former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in the Republican contest and Obama, then a senator, in the Democratic caucus. [via Huffington Post, IB Times, USA Today and Guardian]

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