Former House Speaker Newt Gingirich is not only leading in Iowa and closing the gap in New Hampshire, but Gingrich’s leads in South Carolina and Florida appear to be quite solid. NBC’s Mark Murray has more:
According to new NBC News-Marist polls, the former House speaker has now opened up commanding leads in South Carolina and Florida — two states that historically have played important roles in deciding the eventual Republican nominee.
Fueled by the support from conservatives and the Tea Party, Gingrich is ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by nearly 20 points in South Carolina. The winner of that state’s primary has gone on to capture each GOP nomination since 1980.
And he leads Romney by double digits in Florida, whose primary ultimately ended up deciding the party’s pick in 2008.
“You can see why the Romney people are getting a little itchy,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of Marist College’s Institute for Public Opinion, referring to the Romney campaign’s recent attacks on Gingrich.
In South Carolina, which holds its presidential contest on Jan. 21, Gingrich gets the support of 42 percent of likely primary voters, including those leaning toward a particular candidate. That’s a 35-point jump since October’s NBC-Marist poll of the Palmetto State contest.
Romney gets 23 percent (a five-point drop), and no other Republican candidate registers in double digits. Texas Rep. Ron Paul gets 9 percent, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann are tied at 7 percent.
In a field reduced to three candidates in South Carolina, Gingrich gets the support of 48 percent of likely voters, Romney gets 30 percent and Paul gets 12 percent.
In a simple two-way race, Gingrich’s support increases to 57 percent and Romney’s moves to 33 percent.
In Florida, which holds its primary on Jan. 31, Gingrich is at 44 percent among likely voters — a 38-point increase from October. He’s followed by Romney at 29 percent (a four-point decline), Paul at 8 percent and Perry at 4 percent.
In a three-way race in the Sunshine State, it’s Gingrich 51 percent, Romney 31 percent and Paul 10 percent. And in a simple head-to-head contest, it’s Gingrich 54 percent, Romney 36 percent.