Gingrich Surging In New Polls

Meet Newton Leroy Gingrich, the new "Not Romney."

Two new national polls, and one statewide poll, confirm that we are indeed in the middle of the incredibly improbable Newt Gingrich Boomlet. Despite all his personal negatives, despite his record and downfall as Speaker in the ’90s, despite the fact that he has held positions on policy issues in the past that should be anathema to most of the Republican base, and despite what has up until now an incredibly lackadaisical campaign, Republican voters are turning to Newton Leroy Gingrich as the newest “not Romney” in the race for the GOP nomination. The big question is whether this is something that will last, or whether it’s a flash in the pan.

First up is perhaps the biggest surprise, which is the Public Policy Polling poll that shows Gingrich in the lead for the Republican nomination, ahead of both Herman Cain and Mitt Romney:

Newt Gingrich has taken the lead in PPP’s national polling.  He’s at 28% to 25% for Herman Cain and 18% for Mitt Romney.  The rest of the Republican field is increasingly looking like a bunch of also rans: Rick Perry is at 6%, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul at 5%, Jon Huntsman at 3%, and Gary Johnson and Rick Santorum each at 1%.

Compared to a month ago Gingrich is up 13 points, while Cain has dropped by 5 points and Romney has gone down by 4.  Although a fair amount of skepticism remains about the recent allegations against Cain there is no doubt they are taking a toll on his image- his net favorability is down 25 points over the last month from +51 (66/15) to only +26 (57/31). What is perhaps a little more surprising is that Romney’s favorability is at a 6 month low in our polling too with only 48% of voters seeing him favorably to 39% with a negative opinion.

Gingrich’s lead caps an amazing comeback he’s made over the last 5 months.  In June his favorability nationally with Republican voters plummeted all the way to 36/49. Now he’s at 68/23, representing a 58 point improvement in his spread since then. As recently as August Gingrich was mired in single digits at 7%, and even in September he was at just 10%.  He’s climbed 18 points in less than 2 months.

There’s reason to think that if Cain continues to fade, Gingrich will continue to gain.  Among Cain’s supporters 73% have a favorable opinion of Gingrich to only 21% with a negative one. That compares to a 33/55 spread for Romney with Cain voters and a 32/53 one for Perry.  They like Gingrich a whole lot more than they do the other serious candidates in the race.

Cain’s base of strength continues to be with Tea Party voters, where he gets 33% to 31% for Gingrich, and only 11% for Romney.  This is where you can really see that Gingrich will be the beneficiary if Cain continues to implode- Gingrich’s favorability with Tea Partiers is 81/14. Romney’s is 43/45. There’s a lot of room for Gingrich to build up support with that key group of Republican voters.

The good news for Cain in the PPP poll is that the majority of respondents still tend to doubt the veracity of the accusations against him. Nonetheless, the fact that his favorability has started to fall is not a good sign for him. As I’ve noted before, it’s Cain’s likeability that has been his greatest asset among voters, if that’s starting to decline then it probably won’t be long before his actual poll numbers start to decline. Nobody else even comes close in the PPP poll. Rick Perry is down at 6%, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul are at 5%, Jon Huntsman at 3%, and Gary Johnson and Rick Santorum are both at 1%.

A new CNN poll, meanwhile, shows Gingrich in a statistical tie with Mitt Romney, while Herman Cain has taken a precipitous fall from where he was just a month ago:

A new national survey of Republicans indicates that it’s basically all tied up between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, with Gingrich on the rise and businessman Herman Cain falling due to the sexual harassment allegations he’s been facing the past two weeks.

According to a CNN/ORC International Poll released Monday, 24% of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say Romney is their most likely choice for their party’s presidential nominee with Gingrich at 22%. Romney’s two-point advantage is well within the survey’s sampling error.

While the level of support has pretty much stayed the same for Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who’s making his second bid for the White House, Gingrich has seen his support jump 14 points since October.

The poll also indicates that 14 percent back Cain, down 11 points from last month. Four women have alleged that Cain sexually harassed them during the late 1990s when he headed the National Restaurant Association. Cain denies the allegations.

“Cain is struggling with the charges of sexual harassment, and while most Republicans tend to dismiss those charges, roughly four in 10 Republicans think this is a serious matter and tend to believe the women who made those charges,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.

Rick Perry stands a little better in this poll, at 12%, while Ron Paul is at 8%, Michele Bachmann is at 6%, and Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman are both at 3%. The bad news for Perry is that this poll, all of which was taken after the Wednesday debate gaffe, shows that the percentage of Republicans who say Perry is ready to be President has dropped 14 points from the last time the poll was taken.

There was a third national poll released today, the Politico/GWU Battleground poll, but this poll was mostly taken before the Wednesday debate, and just after the latest round of sexual harassment charges against Herman Cain became public so it’s unclear if it really means anything at this point. Nonetheless, the trend that has develoepd over the past two weeks sicne those reports about Cain first surfaced is pretty self-evident:

That green line is Gingrich, and the trajectory of that line is pretty clear.  The questi0n is whether it can be sustained. After all, as I noted above, there’s nobody in the race right now that has the most skeletons in his past, both personal and political, not to mention the most enemies. If this turns into a Romney-Gingrich race, then I’d imagine that the people in Romney’s camp would be quite pleased:

The key difference between Romney and Gingrich is electability. For the first time in CNN’s polling, Romney now tops Barack Obama in a head-to-head matchup among registered voters. But Gingrich faces an 8-point deficit when paired with Obama in a general election matchup.

“Among all Americans, 58% say that Romney has the personal qualities a president should have, compared to just 45% for Gingrich. Most Americans don’t agree with either man on important issues,” Holland said.

Having gone through all the other not-Romney’s and found them wanting, and apparently not willing to consider candidates like Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson or Rick Santorum, will Republicans really look at a choice between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich and say, “Hey, let’s go with Newt!”?

Jamelle Bouie doesn’t think so:

Newt Gingrich isn’t a serious candidate either, and if you want to know why, take the previous explanation for why Cain isn’t a real candidate, and swap the names. Like Cain, Gingrich has done few of the things necessary to building a viable campaign for the presidential nomination. Large chunks of his time have been spent outside of the three early primary states, where his organizations are threadbare. He has $300,000 cash on hand, compared to the millions raised by Romney and Texas Governor Rick Perry, and has few endorsements from Republican Party activists and lawmakers. According to Mark Blumenthal’s poll of “power outsiders,” only 20 percent say they stand a good chance of endorsing the former House Speaker.

All of this is to say that you should ignore the noise. Like Bachmann, Perry, and Herman Cain before him, Gingrich is basking in the spotlight generated by a desperate conservative movement. As soon as it becomes clear that Gingrich is a terrible choice for facing Barack Obama, they’ll turn their attention elsewhere.

Jennifer Rubin agrees:

I agree that Gingrich will benefit for some time from Herman Cain’s and Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s woes. It is ironic that the feisty base, which wants to fight, fight, fight against the Democrats, would consider the last GOP speaker of the House to get badly rolled by the White House. But in short order not only his personal baggage but his embrace of decidedly unconservative ideas and ethical problems will become a turnoff for many evangelicals, the group the not-Romney candidate must capture. For all of his flash and humor, Gingrich remains a loose cannon and an inconsistent conservative — not exactly what the not-Romney crowd is looking for.

Rubin is very pro-Romney and Bouelle is on the left, but they both make good points. As I’ve become fond of saying lately, Gingrich has more baggage than Imelda Marcos has shoes and it seems unlikely to me that he’s going to be the guy that conservatives turn to as anything other than a temporary savior. For one thing, he’s done and said enough over the years that it would be ridiculous for him to unload a “flip-flopper” charge on Romney. For another, his current argument that Romney would be a manager while he’d be an “agent of change” is ridiculous. Even since leaving the Speakership, Gingrich is and has been an inside-the-beltway guy. The fact that so many GOP power players don’t seem inclined to endorse him is more a measure of how many people he’s pissed off over the years than his status as an outsider. Finally, in the end, Newt Gingrich is still Newt Gingirch and while he’ll benefit from the fact that the next debate or two focus on policy areas that he can speak intelligently on, a leopard doesn’t change its spots and Gingrich will revert to form eventually. When he does, the voters will react accordingly.

Or at least that’s what I think will happen. I’ll admit to having been surprised by the rise of Herman Cain over the past month, and Gingrich’s surge is similarly surprising. Logic and history argue that it cannot possibly last, but this seems to be one of those years where logic doesn’t necessarily apply and history isn’t always a good guide. If he holds on, he will become Mitt Romney’s final rival. As I said, that should be good news for Gingrich. Emphasis on the word should.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. John Burgess says:

    Hey, I’ve voted for the Republican candidate for president since the late ’60s. If Gingrich is the nominee, I’m not voting for a Republican. That simple.

  2. Hey Norm says:

    John Burgess must be pretty f’ing disappointed by what has become of the Republican Party over the last 50 years.

    I really don’t think these numbers mean that much yet…wait until after the holidays when the general public starts paying attention to the race. I think that’s the reason that there has been a new Bozo every week. It’ simply the base being fickle. Of course I’m not a pollster…I could be wrong.

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    Last non-Romney standing!

  4. Neil Hudelson says:

    The Flavor of the Week is dead! Long live the Flavor of the Week!

  5. michael reynolds says:

    Dear Mitt:

    It’s not you, it’s us. The truth is you’re a great guy. But we just don’t think of you that way.

    We are in love with someone else. It’s the crazy woman. The big dumbass from Texas. The ignoramus who fondles women. The living embodiment of fingernails on a chalkboard.

    I hope we’ll always be friends, Mitt, but it can never be that way between us.

    With mild affection,
    The Republican Party

  6. ponce says:

    There’s a catchy tune about ths Republican primary somewhere.

    Maybe to the “Maude” theme song.

    “And then there’s Newt!”

  7. @Hey Norm:

    “After the holidays”? Heck Iowa is two days after the New Year. That race is going to be decided, for better or worse, in December. People will start turning out by Dec 20th or so and they’ll only tune back in after the holidays are over.

  8. Peter says:

    First Bachmann, then Perry, then Cain and now Gingrich: Enjoy your 15 minutes Newt.

    I can’t wait to see the “Bad Lip Reading” folks giving him the treatment.

  9. Hey Norm says:

    @ Doug…
    I guess…but I don’t think Iowa is taking up space in the front of people’s minds right now…outside Iowa that is. Look at the viewership for the debates…5-6M viewers? About the same as a UFC match. Sarah Palin’s Alaska did almost that well and was cancelled. Again…I may be wrong. If I am…the GOP is more f’ed up than I thought.

  10. MBunge says:


    The difference between Newt and Cain and Bachman is that there was no way the party establishment was ever going to rally around those two. Pizza Guy and Crazy Eyes could have beaten Romney in both Iowa and New Hampshire and it wouldn’t have made a difference. If Newt somehow takes 2 or the first 3 contests, it’s entirely different. If Newt wins Iowa and South Carolina, what exactly is the conservative argument against him? That he’s less qualified than Romney? No. A bigger flip-flopper? No. A more gigantic ass? That’s actually an advantage in today’s GOP.


  11. sam says:

    All of this reminds me of that great scene in The Maltese Falcon (1941) where they’re all sitting around trying to decide who’s gonna take the fall, and then all eyes turn to Wilmer.

  12. Tsar Nicholas says:

    At this point Romney has to be utterly mortified. Bachmann is a crazy lady. Cain is so unqualified to be president it’s actually absurd. Gingrich was a retread . . . 10 years ago. Yet Romney can’t break away from this pack. Then to top it off Obama’s chances of reelection increase literally each day this goes on.

  13. Hello World! says:

    Do you think this surg will last when people are reminded of what was going on in his house office while he was going after Clinton or are republicans so desperate that they will overlook sexual indiscressions?

  14. A voice from another precinct says:

    @Hello World!: You seem to think that republicans have some sort of moral compass or code by which they live. Morality is just another club with which to beat the enemy. It’s not for “us.” Remember, in 2008, they nominated a guy who left his wife for a rich younger woman and took a “campaign contribution [of $1,500,000]” from a guy for whom he sponsored legislation that permitted the guy to swindle people’s grandmothers. Will they overlook sexual indiscretions? Sure, why not?

  15. ponce says:

    Speaking of surgin:

    Righty Rasmussen has Obama’s approval rating back at 50%:

    Oh, yeah, and the Democrats are now tied with the Republicans in the generic congressional ballot:

  16. Fiona says:

    Newt? Really? I guess I just have so much bile left over for the guy after his Contract on America and his actions as Speaker that I can’t imagine why anyone would consider voting for him.

  17. MBunge says:

    One thing that works in Newt’s favor is that a lot of liberals, and some conservatives, lump him in with Bachman, Trump and Cain as joke candidates who couldn’t possibly win the White House. But that’s based almost entirely on their personal disaste for the guy, something which isn’t shared by the general public. I’m not saying folks love Newt because they don’t. I don’t believe the average voter, however, has anything like the visceral loathing for Newt you see from the pundit class. That opens the door for Newt to play the “media hates me” card for effectively than any other person in the race.