The new Rasmusssen poll in Florida shows that Insider Advantage was no outlier. Two weeks ago, Rasmussen had Mitt Romney up 22 points, but those days are just a distant memory now. Today’s poll has Newt Gingrich up nine as he consolidates conservative voters — and more:
The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Florida Republican Primary Voters, taken Sunday evening, finds Gingrich earning 41% of the vote with Romney in second at 32%. Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum runs third with 11%, while Texas Congressman Ron Paul attracts support from eight percent (8%). Nine percent (9%) remain undecided. …
One-in-three (32%) say they still could change their minds before they vote in the January 31 primary. Another nine percent (9%) have no initial preference yet. Fifty-nine percent (59%) are already certain of their vote, including 73% of Romney supporters and 62% of Gingrich voters.
Rasmussen does have one piece of good news for Romney, but even that’s a disappointment:
Florida allows early voting, and Romney leads among those voters by 11 points. Gingrich leads by 12 among those who have not yet voted. Fourteen percent (14%) have already cast their vote.
Romney might have hoped for a 20-point lead in early voting, rather than the 11 points indicated here. That’s not too large for Gingrich to overcome through the rest of the early voting, especially if he can maintain a double-digit lead. Thanks to the new momentum, Gingrich may have already begun eating into Romney’s head start among early voters.
Gingrich also broke through on electability against Romney. He now narrowly leads Romney on the question of being the stronger general-election choice for Republicans, 42/39. Women give the edge to Romney, but now only by three points. Very conservative voters choose Gingrich as the stronger choice against Barack Obama overwhelmingly, 56/24, as do evangelicals (43/31), Tea Party members (56/23), and nearly every income demographic except $100K+ (with a tie among $40-60K voters at 40% each).
On the issues, though, there is a curious split. Gingrich gets the edge on national security by a wide margin, 54/23, probably due in part to his tough talk on, well, everything. Republican voters trust Romney more on managing the economy, 45/30, and they tie on social issues at 30% each. If this was supposed to be a cycle that was all about the economy, it’s remarkable that Romney isn’t doing better than Gingrich with a 15-point lead there and a tie on social issues. Is national security really that much of a worry about Romney?
Finally, on character, it’s not even close. Romney leads with 41% on having the best personal character, with another 30% backing … Rick Santorum. Gingrich barely manages to avoid last place by scoring 11% to Ron Paul’s 10%. So we have a candidate who gets beat by 15 points on the economy and 30 points on personal character, and he’s leading by nine points overall? That’s a mighty puzzling profile, especially for Republicans in the 2012 cycle, and I wonder whether those oddities portend a momentum reversal in the eight days between now and the primary vote on the 31st.