The standard caveats apply — only state polls really matter, it’s a poll of registered voters instead of likelies, etc — but this is in fact a milestone. The closest anyone else has gotten to 40 percent in any poll this year was Perry, who reached 38 percent in an NBC/WSJ survey back in late August.

Perry’s now fifth — behind Bachmann?

How’s Newt doing it? Purity:

Fifty-seven percent of Republican primary voters view Gingrich as a conservative, 28 percent see him as a moderate and 10 percent believe he’s liberal.

By comparison, 53 percent of them view Romney as a moderate, 29 percent see him as a conservative and 11 percent believe he’s a liberal.

“Romney’s problem has always been ideology,” Hart says…

Gingrich enjoys strong [favorable] numbers among Republicans (46 percent positive vs. 21 percent negative), conservatives (42 percent positive vs. 23 percent negative) and Tea Party supporters (54 percent positive vs. 16 percent negative). In fact, they are higher than Romney’s numbers among these same three key Republican groups.

In a three-way race with Romney and Paul, Gingrich leads 53/31/13. One not-so-minor detail, though: Obama leads Romney by just two points head to head but leads Gingrich by 11 thanks to Newt’s weakness among women and independents. Romney’s already made electability an overt part of his campaign messaging but I wonder if he’ll be even more heavy-handed about it over the next three weeks. Conservatives might be willing to forgive Newt for his personal transgressions and his support for mandates and Medicare Part D and his rhetoric on climate change and, oh, a whole lot of other stuff, but if they’re convinced that nominating Gingrich would significantly raise the odds of a second Obama term, that’d be a stone cold dealbreaker. Besides, what other lines of attack are available to Romney at this point? For cripes sake, today he was reduced to accusing Newt of being an “extremely unreliable leader in the conservative world.” You know Mitt’s quiver is empty when he’s forced to point fingers at other candidates for being insufficiently doctrinaire. Gingrich should take Major Garrett’s advice and respond with a simple question: What were you doing in 1994?

Nate Silver published his first election model of Iowa tonight just as this new NBC poll was breaking online. His prediction: Gingrich 25, Paul 21, Romney 16, Perry 12, Bachmann 11. Needless to say, that result would be hugely damaging to Mitt; if Perry and/or Bachmann surged a bit and knocked him back to fourth or even fifth place, it could sink him in New Hampshire. While you mull that, I’ll leave you with these two data sets. The numbers speak for themselves in the first set, but I’m not sure how to read the second. It’s insane and frightening that a plurality would prioritize “the one percent” over the state of the economy and the deficit, but then again, if this is the best OWSers can do when conditions for stoking class resentment are this favorable to them, maybe that’s good news after all.