Gingrich passes Cain for second place in Marist poll

Looks like the official Newt Gingrich Second Look has begun.  A new Marist poll conducted for McClatchy of Republican and independent primary voters shows Gingrich moving into a narrow second-place lead over Herman Cain, while Mitt Romney continues to lead by four points overall:

The Republican presidential race is being shaken up again, with Mitt Romney retaking the lead, Newt Gingrich surging into second place, and Herman Cain dropping to third place, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll released Friday.

The poll signaled that Romney retains his steady if uncommanding position and that, in the quest by most Republicans for an alternative, they’ve cooled on Cain and are starting to turn to Gingrich. It is the first national survey since the allegations of sexual harassment against Cain erupted into a full political firestorm this week.

“Clearly this race has taken yet another dramatic turn. The top tier has gotten more crowded,” said Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College, which conducted the poll, in New York.

“Romney is still where he’s been. It’s fair to say this is a battle for the anybody-but-Romney candidate. Gingrich has now begun his 15 days of fame. Whether he is able to maintain that, as others have fallen, is the question. He may be the only one standing when this is all said and done.”

That won’t make people here at BlogCon 2011 very happy.  Stephen Kruiser started off the conference here by warning that both Gingrich and Romney are “Republican Party hacks.”  Gingrich has had a lot more involvement with conservative grassroots groups, but sitting on the sofa with Nancy Pelosi and his other heterodoxies from the movement have not been forgiven, to say the least.

However, the internals of the Marist poll indicate that this may be precisely where Gingrich is getting his second wind.  Among Tea Party adherents, Gingrich has a significant lead over Herman Cain, 28% to 21%.  Mitt Romney comes in third at 17%, leading Ron Paul and Rick Perry at 10% each.  Surprisingly, Michele Bachmann has dropped to only 3% for Tea Party voters.

He and Romney lead among Republicans, 26/21 Romney with Herman Cain coming in at 15%.  Cain leads among independents, 19%, with Gingrich second at 17% and Romney at 16%, essentially a three-way tie within the margin of error.  Gingrich comes in third (14%) for “shares your values” behind Romney (22%) and Cain (21%), but he’s second to Romney on “closest to the issues” (28/21, Cain at 18%), second to Romney on the ability to beat Obama (26/23, Cain fourth at 13% behind Michele Bachmann at 14%), and first for having the experience to govern (25/20 over Romney, more than doubling Cain’s 11%).

And here’s a big indicator that Gingrich’s moment has arrived — his support is by far the strongest in the field at the moment.  Forty-three percent of his followers strongly support Gingrich.  That figure is only 31% for Cain and 30% for Romney.  Only 22% of Gingrich supports say they may vote differently, as opposed to 25% for Romney and 28% for Cain.

Gingrich may not be leading this field, but his second wind looks legitimate — and Gingrich is experienced enough to keep from stepping on his momentum.