THE MORNING LINE -- December 8, 2011 at 7:23 AM ET
Gingrich's Surge Spreads to Swing States
Newt Gingrich speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Presidential Candidates Forum Wednesday in Washington. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.
The Newt Gingrich surge has spread beyond Iowa and South Carolina, and now extends to Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to the Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released Thursday.
In Florida, the fourth state on next year's GOP nominating calendar, Gingrich leads the Republican presidential field with 35 percent, followed by Mitt Romney at 22 percent. No other candidate receives more than 8 percent in the Sunshine State.
Gingrich doubles-up Romney in Ohio, 36 percent to 18 percent, with no other GOP contender supassing 7 percent in the Buckeye State.
And in Pennsylvania, Gingrich captures 31 percent, with Romney at 17 percent, and Rick Santorum, the state's former two-term senator, at 9 percent.
When Gingrich and Romney are placed in a head-to-head contest, Republican voters in all three states prefer the former House speaker to the former Massachusetts governor by at least 18 percentage points.
For Romney, those numbers could mean trouble down the line. With some states allocating delegates proportionally, the Republican fight could look more like the protracted Democratic battle of 2008. If Gingrich's support in the later voting contests holds, then it would become increasingly difficult for Romney to make up ground if he gets behind early after Iowa and South Carolina.
The Quinnipiac poll is not all bad news for Romney, as he can still make the case that he is a better general election candidate than Gingrich, although even that argument isn't as strong as it once was.
Romney leads President Obama in a head-to-head matchup in Florida, 45 percent to 42 percent, while Gingrich trails the president by two points, 46 percent to 44 percent.
Romney and Gingrich are evenly matched against Mr. Obama in Ohio, both holding narrow one-point advantages, 43 percent to 42 percent.
In Pennsylvania, Romney makes it more of a race, trailing the president by three percentage points, while Gingrich faces an eight-point deficit to Mr. Obama.
The momentum in the race is solidly behind Gingrich at this point, but he still has ground to make up when it comes to money and organization, where Romney holds significant advantages.
A key component of Romney's campaign infrastructure will be on display Thursday, as two of his advisers and supporters -- former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu and former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent -- will hold a morning conference call to discuss Gingrich's record, in what will likely be one of many steps taken in the coming weeks to try and halt the former speaker's rise.
In the event you haven't had your fill of poll numbers by this point, be sure to take a look at the newly released CNN poll, which shows Gingrich the front-runner in three of the first four states to vote in 2012.
FINGER ON THE SCALE
There's, so far, only a Republican nominating contest in the presidential race this cycle. But that doesn't mean Democrats are staying on the sidelines. In fact, as Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg report for the New York Times, President Obama's advisers are focusing attacks on both Romney and Gingirch in an attempt to make the GOP primary last longer.
Democrats have made it clear they have no plans of letting up on Mitt Romney. But they are hoping to help stretch the Republican nominating contest into a longer and bloodier battle -- meaning they are eager to define Mr. Gingrich for voters in unflattering terms without necessarily wounding him fatally and assisting Mr. Romney, whom they still view as a formidable general election opponent.
The White House is not conceding that by focusing on Mr. Romney, it aimed its initial attacks at the wrong opponent. But in taking on Mr. Gingrich as well, it is underscoring its determination to play an active role in the opposing party's primary.
Zeleny and Rutenberg also report that the president's advisers see the former House speaker as a welcome opponent because Gingrich's record helps make him a symbol of the past.
The Democratic National Committee has focused much of its effort lately on attacking Romney, developing websites and Twitter hashtags that mock him. After a testy interview with Fox News' Bret Baier last week, Romney complained about the questions he was asked. The DNC launched the hashtag #QuestionsMittLikes to highlight what it sees as his unwillingness to answer hard questions.
On Wednesday, the DNC released a video highlighting Romney's changes in political identity through the decades, called "Mitt Through the Ages."
That suggests Democrats see Gingrich, who has a more combative style and a long record in Washington, as the candidate they would rather run against.
Last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler how excited she was that Gingrich might be the nominee:
"I like Barney Frank's quote the best, where he said 'I never thought I'd live such a good life that I would see Newt Gingrich be the nominee of the Republican party,'" Pelosi said in an exclusive interview Friday. "That quote I think spoke for a lot of us."
But as Zeleny and Rutenberg report, Democrats are shifting their focus to take the former Georgia congressman seriously:
First, he could be more difficult to brand as hostile to the middle class, because Mr. Gingrich does not have a history of buying and selling companies as Mr. Romney does from his time at Bain Capital. Second, Mr. Gingrich has a better record of reaching out to Hispanic voters, the fastest-growing segment of the electorate.
Fans of Elizabeth Warren can rejoice in a new poll out of Massachusetts: The Harvard Law School professor and brains behind the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is leading Sen. Scott Brown by seven points.
The University of Massachusetts at Lowell/Boston Herald poll shows Warren up, 49-42, over Brown, with a 5.3 percent margin of error.
Joe Batenfield of the Herald provides some details:
The new poll results are bound to send more shockwaves across the country, where Democrats and Republicans are closely watching to see whether the Harvard Law professor can knock off one of the GOP's rising stars. The Massachusetts race could determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate and Democrats are making the race one of their top priorities.
"Clearly Warren has made some gains over the past month and a half," said Mike Mokrzycki, a consultant who produced the poll for UMass-Lowell.
The UMass-Lowell/Herald poll reveals Brown's popularity has dropped significantly since Warren essentially wrapped up the Democratic nomination and a pro-Warren interest group, the League of Conservation voters, began a blitz of negative ads against Brown. Brown's job approval rating has dropped eight points to 45 percent in the last two months.
The Warren-Brown matchup will be one of the most high-profile U.S. Senate races of the cycle because of Warren's celebrity status among liberals and because this is one of the few states where Democrats could take a seat from Republicans.
ON THE TRAIL
All events listed in Eastern Time.
President Obama is in Washington, meeting with House Democratic leaders at 10:15 a.m., sitting for a series of interviews with regional television outlets at 1:50 p.m. and delivering remarks at a Hanukkah reception at 6 p.m.
Rick Perry campaigns in South Carolina, holding a press conference in Mount Pleasant at 10 a.m., attending an event in Beaufort at 12:30 p.m., hosting a town hall in Okatie at 2:30 p.m. and visiting a diner in Greenville at 5:35 p.m.
Newt Gingrich participates in a forum with business leaders in Greenville, S.C., at 10:30 a.m.
Jon Huntsman delivers remarks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., at 12 p.m., then holds a town hall in Milford, N.H., at 7 p.m.
Michele Bachmann meets with the Quad City Times Editorial Board in Davenport, Iowa, at 2:45 p.m. and the Cedar Rapids Gazette Editorial Board at 5:30 p.m., then holds a meet-and-greet in Cedar Rapids at 7 p.m.
Ron Paul campaigns in Iowa, holding a pair of town halls -- in Des Moines at 3 p.m. and in Boone at 6 p.m.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
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