Is The Gingrich Surge Petering Out?
Signs that Newt Gingrich's rise may be faltering.
Perhaps Newt Gingrich’s surge to the top of the GOP field isn’t all that different from what we’ve seen with other candidates after all, because we are starting to see some hints that perhaps his support has peaked both nationally and in at least one of the early January battleground states. First, on the national side, we have new information from Gallup’s Dail Tracking poll:
Newt Gingrich continues to lead the field of candidates for the Republican nomination, though his lead over Mitt Romney has shrunk slightly from last week. Currently, 31% of Republican registered voters nationwide say they are most likely to support Gingrich for the nomination, compared with 22% choosing Romney, with all other candidates in single digits.
These results are based on interviews with 1,167 Republicans and Republican-leaning registered voters in Dec. 8-12 Gallup Daily tracking.
Since Gallup began Daily tracking of national Republican nomination preferences last week, Gingrich has averaged a 12-point advantage over Romney, with a high of 15 points in Gallup’s initial report based on Dec. 1-5 interviewing. The current 9-point tracking lead for Gingrich is the smallest yet for the former speaker of the House.
Gingrich has come under increasing attack from his rivals in debates, on the campaign trail, and in television ads since he became the front-runner this month, which may be chipping away at his support, now at 31% after being 37% in the initial tracking report.
At the same time, Romney’s support has been fairly stable over this time. In fact, the decline in Gingrich’s support has not been offset by an increase in another candidate’s support; instead, there has been an increase in the “undecided/no opinion” category, which is up five percentage points in the past week.
You can see the Gingrich dip fairly clearly in this chart: (Gingrich is the red line, Romney the blue, obviously)
Of course, it’s worth noting that the national polls don’t mean nearly as much as the state polls do at this point in the race, especially with respect to to the January primaries. Additionally, it’s not too surprising that Gingrich’s rise would be halted at some point once the attacks started. The real question is whether he continues to slip in the polls and who it benefits. Right now, it doesn’t seem like anyone has benefited from this initial dip. Instead, some voters have gone back to sitting on the sidelines in the undecided category. They could come back to Gingrich, or they could decide to accept the inevitability of a Romney nomination.
On the state level, there’s a new poll from Rasmussen this morning that shows Mitt Romney actually pulling ahead of Newt Gingrich. In this poll, Romney is a 23%, Gingrich is at 20%, Ron Paul at 18%, Rick Perry in 10%, and every other candidate in single digits. Ed Morrissey discusses some of the internals from this poll:
The internals show some interesting points. Gingrich captures 27% of “very conservative” respondents, but Romney gets 17%, good for second place. Romney wins the “somewhat conservative” demo by ten points at 29/19 over Gingrich, and not surprisingly, the “other” category at 22%. Paul comes in second rather than third in this last demo at 19%. Rick Perry ties for third place at 14% among very conservative respondents, falls well back to fourth place at 10% in the intermediate group, and drops to 6% among “others.” If Perry wants to get enough of a bounce to compete in two weeks, he needs to either start grabbing a lot more of Gingrich’s “very conservative” support or look for ways to attract the “somewhats.”
Here’s an interesting note from the internals. For all of the class-warfare bombs being tossed by both Gingrich and Romney, Romney beats Gingrich in every income demographic in Iowa except the $75-100K group. Paul, though, beats both in the under-$20K and $60-75K demos.
Among those certain to show up at the caucuses, Romney’s lead expands to 25/21 with Paul dropping to 17%, and Romney even leads among those not certain to show up, 20/18/18.
Of course, this is Rasmussen so the usual caveats apply, and it’s worth noting that this poll contradicts a Public Policy Polling poll conducted over the same time period which showed Ron Paul within a single point of Newt Gingrich (22% Gingrich v. 21% Paul), with Mitt Romney in third place. Nonetheless, it’s possible that we’re seeing the beginning of the impact of the negative campaigning against Gingrich that has dominated much of the past week. Tonight the candidates meet in their final debate before the Iowa Caucuses and I think we can expect Gingrich and his record to be the primary focus of the night. A week from now, his poll numbers could be very different.
Update: Further support for the proposition that Gingrich’s numbers are slipping can be seen in this afternoon’s update to the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll. From a high of 37%, Gingrich is now down to 29%:
The negative attacks seem to be having an impact.