Gingrich Surges, but Swing Voters Are Wary

December 14, 2011

By NEIL KING JR., The Wall Street Journal

Republican voters now heavily favor Newt Gingrich over Mitt Romney as the party’s nominee, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, but the poll also found deep unease with Mr. Gingrich among independents and swing voters who normally decide presidential elections.

With less than three weeks before the first votes are cast in Iowa, Republicans give the former House speaker the most commanding lead of any candidate this year: He has 40% support among likely GOP voters, compared with 23% for Mr. Romney. All of the other Republican candidates fell short of 10% support in the poll.

Further showing Mr. Gingrich’s advantage, his lead appears set to grow if other candidates drop out of the race. In a two-way contest, Mr. Gingrich leads Mr. Romney by 23 points, winning the support of nearly six of 10 Republicans.

Still, the poll found that Mr. Gingrich would confront a steep challenge in trying to win voters beyond his core constituency of conservatives.

Half of all voters say they wouldn’t vote for Mr. Gingrich if he were the Republican nominee, compared with 44% who say they wouldn’t vote for Mr. Romney—a slight improvement of three percentage points for him since November. Some 45% said they wouldn’t vote for President Barack Obama.

At this point four years ago, Sen. John McCain, the ultimate nominee, trailed a tightly bunched pack of three Republicans by six points in the Journal/NBC News poll. The 2012 Republican nomination race has been even more tumultuous, with Mr. Gingrich becoming the fourth candidate to grab the lead in the past five months.

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