It’s interesting to see how much the narrative has changed in the nine days since Newt Gingrich scored a double-digit victory in South Carolina. At that time, the big story was whether Mitt Romney could weather a loss in Florida as the polls all flipped. Two debates and a week later, the question today is just how big will Mitt Romney’s win tomorrow be. That depends on which pollsters ask the question.
If one asks Democratic pollster PPP, it’s a seven-point split, with Romney up 39/32:
PPP’s second day of tracking in Florida finds little change in the state of the race. Mitt Romney leads with 39% to 32% for Newt Gingrich with Rick Santorum at 14% and Ron Paul at 11%. Romney and Santorum are both down a single point from Saturday’s polling while Paul has gained 2 points and Gingrich has stayed in place.
The reason we don’t find Gingrich getting blown out by a double digit margin in Florida is that he’s winning a lot of the same groups he did in South Carolina. He’s up 37-33 with Evangelicals, 40-33 with Tea Partiers, and 36-29 with voters who describe themselves as ‘very conservative.’ The problem for him is that he’s not winning those groups by the same kinds of margins that he did in the Palmetto State.
But PPP has a big caveat for Gingrich supporters:
Romney continues to have a large lead in the bank in Florida. 34% of our respondents said they’d already voted and with those folks he has a 45-33 lead. That puts Gingrich in a position where he’d have to not only win the election day vote, but win it by 6 or 7 points to upset Romney in the state. The kind of reversal necessary to make that happen seems unlikely to occur in the next 48 hours.
Gingrich fans are more likely to cite the Insider Advantage numbers out this morning:
A new InsiderAdvantage poll conducted Sunday night of likely Republican voters in the state of Florida shows a significant surge for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
The poll has former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leading with 36 percent of voters, followed by Gingrich at 31 percent.
IA claims to have prescience in this primary, as they were the first to catch Romney’s resurgence in Florida. However, Romney’s resurgence had a couple of very obvious inflection points: the debates. Nothing that has taken place since Thursday would indicate that the race has changed at all in Gingrich’s favor.
Finally, Quinnipiac reports that Romney still has a double-digit lead according to its sample of 539 likely primary voters:
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has a 43 – 29 percent lead over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich among Republican likely voters in Florida, the nation’s first big-state presidential primary, according to Quinnipiac University poll released today. Only 7 percent are undecided, but 24 percent say they might change their mind by tomorrow’s election
This compares to a 38 – 29 percent Romney lead in a January 27 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.
Contra PPP, the Q-poll shows Romney now winning conservatives, evangelicals, and even Tea Party voters, albeit by thin margins:
In today’s survey, self-described conservatives go to Romney 40 – 31 percent. He gets 38 percent of white evangelical Christians to Gingrich’s 33 percent and wins 40 percent of Tea Party members to Gingrich’s 35 percent.
How did Romney manage that? Gingrich’s favorability numbers have begun to fall, just as they did in the Rasmussen polls:
Romney gets a 64 – 25 percent favorability rating from likely primary voters, compared to 61 – 28 percent Friday. Gingrich has 51 – 42 percent favorability, compared to 50 – 28 percent Friday. Santorum is at 58 – 16 percent favorable, with a negative 35 – 45 percent for Paul.
I’d expect this to tighten up a little as the last of the undecideds make up their minds today, but that big lead in early voting is going to provide Romney a wide margin — perhaps eight or nine percent, unless something significant happens today.
Update: I meant eight or nine percent, not votes. No, I wasn’t being funny. And now I will take my coffee intravenously, thank you very much.