CNN, which will be televising tonight’s Heritage Foundation/American Enterprise Institute GOP presidential debate, released a poll yesterday that showed Newt Gingrich firmly atop the Republican field:
Newt Gingrich 24%
Mitt Romney 20%
Herman Cain 17%
Rick Perry 11%
Ron Paul 9%
Michele Bachmann 5%
Rick Santorum 4%
Jon Huntsman 3%
That’s a small gain for Gingrich from the previous CNN poll taken November 11-13, which had the race at Romney 24%, Gingrich 22%, Cain 14%. The polling sample was the very loose “adult Americans,” with a sampling error of plus or minus 3%.
USA Today/Gallup has the race a bit closer, with Romney one point ahead among “all Republicans and Republican leaners,” but Gingrich one point up when the sample is confined to “registered voters.” Gingrich actually benefits the most of any candidate when the registered voter sample is used, picking up 3 full points.
Newt Gingrich 22%
Mitt Romney 21%
Herman Cain 16%
Ron Paul 9%
Rick Perry 8%
Michele Bachmann 4%
Jon Huntsman 1%
Rick Santorum 1%
Gallup finds a much larger pool of undecided voters, 18% to CNN’s 5%. They also detect a much more substantial slide for Herman Cain, from 21% to 16%, while CNN actually had him improving from 14% to 17%. The polls cover somewhat different periods of time, so looking at the big picture, CNN sees Cain partially recovering after a slide down from 25% in mid-October.
Tonight will be Rick Perry’s first real chance to get past his Third Department of Doom brain freeze, since CBS’ weird half-online Saturday night debate two weeks ago didn’t have great viewership, and the unfortunate victims of CBS’ horrible streaming only heard one out of three words spoken in the last half hour. Unfortunately for Perry, he won’t get many more chances to dazzle everyone, and tonight is another foreign policy debate… smack dab in the middle of breaking news about the massive domestic policy failure of the Super Committee. I wonder if anyone will find a clever way to bring that up tonight?
This will also be every other candidate’s big chance to take a swing at Gingrich, keeping in mind that a lot of his baggage has already been dumped on the campaign runway, and primary voters are still giving him high marks despite the monogrammed Fannie Mae socks and designer Nancy Pelosi couch cushions spread across the tarmac. They might change their minds if they find the way he handles challenges on those issues inadequate, even if a particular issue hasn’t been a deal-breaker for the voters themselves. That’s to be expected when primary voters are nervous about a candidate’s prospects in a bitter general election.
There isn’t much time left for the other candidates to prove they’re better at not being Mitt Romney than Gingrich is. Newt had better be prepared for a rough night.
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