Yet another poll in Florida’s hotly-contested primary shows a major swing in support back to Mitt Romney and away from Newt Gingrich. The new Monmouth University poll puts Romney back in the driver’s seat with a 39/32 lead over Gingrich. Romney has even recovered among overall Tea Party supporters:
In what has been a topsy-turvy campaign, Mitt Romney currently holds a 7 point lead over Newt Gingrich among likely Republican primary voters in Florida according to the Monmouth University Poll. The former Massachusetts governor registers 39% support while the former House Speaker has 32%. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (11%) and Texas Congressman Ron Paul (8%) are well behind the top two contenders. …
Gingrich (40%) does well among those who call themselves very conservative, leading both Romney (34%) and Santorum (15%) among a voting bloc that comprises nearly 4-in-10 likely voters. But Romney does better among the bulk of voters who see themselves as either somewhat conservative 44% to 34% for Gingrich) or moderate to liberal (44% to just 19% for Gingrich).
Among those who support the Tea Party movement, support is split at 38% for each of the two leading candidates. However, Gingrich does better among those who say they strongly support the Tea Party with 49% to 24% for Romney. It’s the mirror image among those who support the Tea Party only somewhat – 51% for Romney to 27% for Gingrich. Romney also bests Gingrich among voters who either oppose or have no opinion about the Tea Party (42% to 18%).
The sampling in this survey is interesting in one important sense. Florida has a closed primary, but the sample of 540 likely Republican voters includes independents (20%) and Democrats (2%). Independents and Democrats could change their registration to cast ballots in this closed primary, but I’d be surprised if they made up 22% of the overall vote. Their inclusion actually boosts Gingrich in this poll, who only trails Romney by a point in this demographic (30/31) but trails among registered Republicans by eight (33/41). Still, the numbers closely match the Rasmussen poll from earlier today as well as one for Insider Advantage released yesterday.
There are a few more interesting points from the crosstabs. Florida Republicans are more likely to consider electability in November when casting their ballots (55%), while independents and Democrats are much more likely to prioritize shared values (66%). Among very conservative voters, the ability to defeat Obama becomes even more important (59%), as well as among Tea Party supporters (54%) a rather counterintuitive result for the “true believers” categories of conservatives. Electability dominates the age demos, too, with only younger voters having a wide majority relying on shared values. Almost two-thirds of respondents think that adding Marco Rubio to the ticket would be a good idea (64/17), but keep in mind the general-election Suffolk poll from this morning on that same question.
Romney wants to close the deal in Florida, and he brought out a big gun to go after Gingrich’s temperament and leadership. Bob Dole had already endorsed Romney before Iowa, but rips Gingrich in a statement today:
I have not been critical of Newt Gingrich but it is now time to take a stand before it is too late. If Gingrich is the nominee it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state, and federal offices. Hardly anyone who served with Newt in Congress has endorsed him and that fact speaks for itself. He was a one-man-band who rarely took advice. It was his way or the highway.
Gingrich served as Speaker from 1995 to 1999 and had trouble within his own party. Already in 1997 a number of House members wanted to throw him out as Speaker. But he hung on until after the 1998elections when the writing was on the wall. His mounting ethics problems caused him to resign in early 1999. I know whereof I speak as I helped establish a line of credit of $150,000 to help Newt pay off the fine for his ethics violations. In the end, he paid the fine with money from other sources.
Gingrich had a new idea every minute and most of them were off the wall. He loved picking a fight with Bill Clinton because he knew this would get the attention of the press. This and a myriad of other specifics helped to topple Gingrich in 1998.
Is this bad news for Gingrich? Republicans have a lot of respect for Dole and his time as Senator, but his nomination in 1996 is often referenced as a demonstration of establishment control over the primary process. Dole complains about ads run against him in that election that heavily featured Gingrich as a bogeyman, but it’s also true that Dole didn’t run a very energetic or effective campaign on his own. I’m not sure that having an establishment figure attacking Gingrich hurts him, and I’m also not sure that tying himself to Dole’s 1996 campaign helps Romney.