Quinnipiac Poll of Florida: Romney 36, Gingrich 34, but Newt has the momentum

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Surging since his South Carolina Republican presidential primary win, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wipes out a 12-point lead by Mitt Romney to tie the former Massachusetts governor in Florida, according to a Quinnipiac University poll release today.  The final tally is 36 percent for Romney to 34 percent for Gingrich among likely voters in the Florida Republican presidential primary, but Gingrich gets 40 percent to 34 percent for Romney among likely voters surveyed after the South Carolina primary.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum receives 13 percent to 10 percent for Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul.

Today’s results compare with a 36 – 24 percent Romney lead in a January 9 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University.

No matter which candidate is ahead, the race for the Sunshine State’s delegates remains wide open.  Although only 7 percent of likely voters are undecided, 38 percent say they might change their mind.  There is little difference among Gingrich and Romney supporters in terms of thinking they might change their mind.

Romney is viewed by more likely primary voters as best able to handle the economy and most sharing voters’ values, while Gingrich is seen by more voters as having the knowledge and experience to be president, being a strong leader and better at handling foreign policy.

“Florida is essentially a dead heat and a two-man race between Gov. Mitt Romney and Speaker Newt Gingrich entering the last week of the campaign,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“Gingrich’s South Carolina victory clearly gives him a boost in Florida.  The question is whether there is more of that to come, or whether any bump from a previous victory will dissipate as happened to Rick Santorum in New Hampshire after winning Iowa and Romney in South Carolina after taking New Hampshire,” Brown added.

Gingrich gets 37 percent of men to 33 percent for Romney, while Romney is ahead       38 – 31 among women.  Gingrich leads among white evangelical Christians 43 – 30 percent and among those who consider themselves to be tea party supporters 43 – 28 percent.  Each makes up roughly a third of primary voters although there is substantial overlap among those two groups.

Romney is viewed more favorably, 71 – 19 percent, than is Gingrich, at 61 – 26 percent. Here again, Gingrich does better among voters polled after the South Carolina victory.  Santorum gets a 58 – 13 percent favorability rating, while Paul gets a negative 36 – 40 percent score.

“Newt Gingrich’s edge is that he is the candidate with momentum and the one viewed as best on a host of issues and characteristics important to voters.  Romney, however, holds the potential trump card that on the question most important to voters – who can best fix the economy – he is seen as the best candidate,” said Brown.

Likely GOP primary voters give Romney the lead 47 – 30 percent on that measure. Romney leads Gingrich 29 – 20 percent on who best shares voters’ values and 33 – 17 percent on being trustworthy.

But voters say 43 – 37 percent that Gingrich is a strong leader and 50 – 31 percent that he has the knowledge and experience to be president.   Voters say 49 – 35 percent that Romney is better able to defeat President Barack Obama in November.  By 52 – 44 percent, likely voters say they prefer a candidate who can defeat President Obama over one who shares their values

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.