TALLAHASSEE — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich heads into Florida's presidential preference primary next Tuesday with momentum from his victory in South Carolina, a new poll shows.
Gingrich has erased a 12-point deficit with Florida voters over the past two weeks and is now about even with Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor was favored by 36 percent of likely Florida Republican voters to 34 percent for Gingrich.
A Jan. 9 poll by Quinnipiac (Conn.) University showed Romney favored 36-24 over Gingrich.
"Gingrich's South Carolina victory clearly gives him a boost," said Peter Brown, assistant polling director for Quinnipiac, noting that former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania failed to hold onto momentum after a razor-thin win in Iowa and Romney was unable to follow up his impressive New Hampshire win in South Carolina.
Quinnipiac's random telephone survey of 601 Republicans taken Jan. 19-23 has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points which has the two GOP frontrunners within the margin of error. Santorum was third in the latest Florida survey with 13 percent and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul had 10 percent in results released Wednesday.
Gingrich held double-digit leads over Romney among white evangelical Christians and tea party supporters and a slight edge over Romney among male voters. Romney, meanwhile, was widely seen, 47 percent to 30 percent, as best suited to fix the economy and had a double-digit advantage for trustworthiness.
Republican voters saw all but Paul favorably and Santorum trumped Gingrich in that category. Forty percent of the GOP voters regarded Paul unfavorably compared to 36 percent who rated him approvingly. He is the only remaining GOP hopeful who has not won one of the early primary contests.
In a bit of a quirk in the new poll, only 7 percent said they were still undecided but 38 percent said they might change their mind.
U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona won Florida's GOP presidential primary on the way to his party's nomination in 2008 when Romney finished second with 31 percent of the vote.