Polls Show More Good News for Gingrich

BY Terence Burlij  December 6, 2011 at 7:56 AM EST

Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich; photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Newt Gingrich speaks to reporters Monday following his meeting with Donald Trump, left, in New York City. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Another day, and two more polls affirming Newt Gingrich’s position as the new front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.

In Iowa, where voting is set to commence four weeks from Tuesday, Gingrich holds a 15-point advantage over his two nearest competitors, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll. The former House speaker received 33 percent support among likely Republican caucus-goers surveyed, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul each took 18 percent.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry captured 11 percent, followed by Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann at 8 percent and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum at 7 percent. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has brushed off Iowa to focus on New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, placed last with 2 percent support.

The Post/ABC poll follows two other recently released surveys by the Des Moines Register and NBC News/Marist that show Gingrich atop the GOP field in Iowa.

Like the other polls, the Post/ABC survey found there was still room for the race to shift. Forty-five percent of likely caucus-goers said they would definitely support their first choice, while 52 percent said there was a chance they could change their mind. Of that group, 27 percent said there was a good chance of that happening.

The Post’s Dan Balz and Jon Cohen break down some of the other poll results, which also came out in Gingrich’s favor:

Among all those highlighting economic or budgetary concerns, Gingrich leads Romney by 14 percentage points. Overall, 31 percent of likely caucus-goers say they trust Gingrich the most to deal with economic issues, 21 percent say Ron Paul, and 20 percent say Romney.

Asked who has the best experience to be president, more than twice as many likely caucus-goers say Gingrich than Romney or any other candidate.

Gingrich also has an edge over Romney when it comes to empathy, values and standing up for what he believes in. On the basic test of electability, 29 percent of likely caucus-goers say Gingrich represents the Republicans’ best chance to defeat President Obama in 2012, while 24 percent say so of Romney.

Gingrich also witnessed a rise in his South Carolina fortunes, with a new Winthrop University poll showing him ahead of Romney by 17 percentage points. The survey of likely primary voters in the first-in-the-South primary put Gingrich at 38.4 percent, Romney at 21.5 percent and Perry a distant third at 9 percent.

Those numbers spell trouble for Romney, as no candidate in the modern era of GOP presidential politics has lost two of the three nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and gone on to clinch the party’s nomination. It’s worth noting, however, that the rules of the game for Republicans have changed this cycle, as some states will allocate delegates proportionally, leaving open the possibility of an extended nominating fight similar to the one Democrats experienced in 2008.

The New York Times’ Nicholas Confessore looks at the Gingrich fundraising scramble,including Monday’s trip to New York, as part of the effort to keep up with the momentum of his campaign.

The unusual excursion underscored the enormous challenge Mr. Gingrich faces as he seeks to take advantage of a late surge in popularity: At a time when most of the Republican candidates are hustling for votes, Mr. Gingrich must, in matter of weeks, build a fund-raising infrastructure that can finance last-minute campaign trips, advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts in the early states and give him staying power to compete beyond them.

Otherwise, the Gingrich enterprise could find itself running on fumes before the race is finished.

QUAYLE PICKS ROMNEY

The polls might not be showing Romney much love at the moment, but former Vice President Dan Quayle will try to give him a boost Tuesday.

Quayle is expected to endorse Romney at an afternoon event in Paradise Valley, Ariz. It’s the latest sign of the Republican establishment coalescing around Romney, even as former Gingrich has surged in the polls.

Quayle detailed his reasons for backing Romney in an Arizona Republic op-ed published Tuesday:

He has proven over and over again that he is a leader. He has demonstrated he is capable of making tough decisions and turning things around. He is a man of integrity. He understands budgets and financial markets. He balanced budgets and met a bottom line. He is strong on national defense and has a deep love of the principles that make America great.

How much Quayle’s endorsement will help sway Republican voters is a matter of debate, but the nod does help Romney move the conversation onto more favorable ground. In addition to Gingrich’s bump the polls, Romney has also faced lingering scrutiny from his interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier last week, an encounter Democrats and some of his rivals have been all too happy to highlight.

The endorsement comes less than a week after Romney met with Quayle’s old boss, former President George H.W. Bush in Houston, although he left without a public blessing of his presidential bid.

ON THE ROAD

The big issue looming on Capitol Hill is whether to extend and enhance the payroll tax cut American workers have enjoyed for the past year, and President Obama is back on the road Tuesday to sell that tax cut as critical for America’s middle class.

The president will speak in Osawatomie, Kan., in a nod to Teddy Roosevelt’s appearance there more than one hundred years ago. The White House says Obama will echo Roosevelt in calling for fairness in our economic system and an equal opportunity to succeed.

USA Today’s Aamer Madhani and David Jackson have details on the trip:

The visit to Kansas — a state that hasn’t voted for a Democrat in a presidential race in 1964 — is Obama’s first as president and comes as Republicans mount criticism that he is spending too much time in battleground states.

Obama warns that failing to extend the payroll tax holiday could hurt the economy and in recent days has spoken of an unease that federal policy is skewing in favor of the wealthy — a theme that Roosevelt hammered at in his Osawatomie speech.

In many ways, Roosevelt’s speech previewed his 1912 election challenge to William Howard Taft, first in the Republication nomination contest and later as a third-party candidate. Roosevelt, then an ex-president, visited Osawatomie at a time he was becoming increasingly critical of his successor and fellow Republican.

While the fairness message is simple, the politics back on Capitol Hill are not. Democrats and Republicans agreed last week that they couldn’t agree to each others’ plans to pay for the payroll tax extension, so Democrats on Monday came up with a new plan: Scale back the extension and expansion of the tax cut, but pay for it with a tax on millionaires.

The new plan, unveiled by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., would cost $185 billion instead of $265 billion and would cut from 6.2 percent to 3.1 percent the Social Security payroll tax for all employees in 2012. Democrats originally wanted to extend part of the tax cut to the portion employers pay, but that has been dropped.

The cut would save the average family $1,500 next year, Democrats estimate. It would be paid for via new fees on mortgage lenders and a 1.9 percent surtax on income over $1 million.

Congress must act before the end of the month to prevent the payroll tax from expiring, and Republican leaders in the House and Senate have supported finding a deal to pay for the tax. As of now, there’s no sign that’s happened.

Alexander Bolton and Russell Berman of the Hill have some reporting on how a compromise may be in the works:

Republican leaders immediately pushed back on the proposal and criticized Democrats for pushing tax increases on individuals and small businesses earning more than $1 million annually. 

But GOP sources hinted the bill might form the basis of a later deal if Democrats agree to drop the surtax on millionaires that would be used to offset the cost of the legislation. Republicans viewed the inclusion of reforms to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and unemployment insurance as a positive development. Those items are also likely to be included in a House Republican proposal.

PBS NewsHour reporter-producer Elizabeth Summers contributed to this report.

ON THE TRAIL

All events listed in Eastern Time.

  • Rick Santorum hosts Iowa town halls in Storm Lake at 9 a.m. and Spencer at 1 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney meets with grassroots supporters in Paradise Valley, Ariz., at 3:15 p.m.

  • Jon Huntsman speaks at the Heritage Foundation’s Bloggers Briefing in Washington, D.C.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


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