Former House speaker Newt Gingrich has pulled ahead of rival Mitt Romney in a nationwide poll released Tuesday of Republicans, weeks ahead of their first primaries to decide a candidate for the 2012 US presidential election.
Gingrich, an ex-congressman from Georgia, leads the pack ofRepublican hopefuls with 26 percent support, compared to 22 percent for former Massachusetts governor Romney, according to aQuinnipiac University survey of party faithful.
In a direct Gingrich-Romney matchup, the former speaker was ahead by an impressive ten points — 49 percent versus 39 percent.
Yet the general public still sees Romney as the biggest threat to Democrat Barack Obama next year — with 44 percent against 45 percent for Obama.
The figure shows public support slipping for Obama, who is down from 47 percent in a November 2 poll.
Republican voters also seem to reluctantly agree, as they pick Romney over Gingrich 38 to 23 percent as the candidate with the best chance to defeat Obama.
The former Republican favorite, restaurant lobbyist Herman Cain, saw his support plummet among Republicans to 14 percent from his high of 30 percent, in the wake of a series of public flubs.
Gingrich, whose standing has shot up from ten percent in the November 2 survey, is the latest contender “to rise to the top, powered by conservatives who remain skeptical about Gov. Mitt Romney,” said Peter Brown with the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
“The question for Gingrich… is whether he is just the flavor of the month or whether he can sustain his meteoric rise.”
“By 74-24 percent, (Republican) voters say they would prefer a candidate with whom they agree on the issues rather than one who can win,” said Brown.
Quinnipiac surveyed 2,552 registered voters November 14 to 20. The poll has a plus or minus 1.9 point margin of error.
The Republican primary questions were answered by 1,039 voters and has a plus or minus three point margin of error.