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I'm actually pleased to see this. No one could confuse me with being a huge Newt Gingrich supporter, only because of trust issues. But at the same time, there is no one - seriously no one - that I would feel more confident about seeing go into a debate with Barack Obama than Newt. It wasn't that long ago that Newt's entire campaign staff resigned and his candidacy appeared dead in the water. There was a time four years ago that John McCain's did too.
Newt's steady and impressive performance in the series of Republican debates have served him well, apparently. His stock has begun to rise impressively as of late, and the entire tiers of presidential favorites for the Republicans has been shifting seismically.
News from the recent PPP poll:
Yesterday PPP released numbers showing Herman Cain leading Mitt Romney 30-22 in Iowa and our monthly look at the national picture finds the exact same numbers. Cain is up 30-22 on Romney with Newt Gingrich sneaking past Rick Perry for 3rd place at 15% to Perry's 14% with Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul tied for 5th at 5%, Jon Huntsman 7th at 2%, Rick Santorum 8th at 1%, and Gary Johnson 9th with less than 1%.
Strong Tea Party support has Cain in the driver's seat nationally, just as he has been on our last four individual state polls. With non-Tea Party Republicans Romney actually leads Cain 29-27. But with the Tea Party crowd Cain is getting 39% with Gingrich at 16%, Perry at 14%, and Romney in 4th place at 13%. Romney doesn't need to win the Tea Partiers to be the Republican nominee. But he does need to finish better than 4th with them.
Certainly the focus of the story here was Cain - and with good reason. But the fact that Gingrich has moved up into the third spot ahead of Perry is significant. And I think it's a positive development. Even if he doesn't win the nomination, his contributions to the race are too valuable to lose at this juncture.
Could he legitimately capture the nomination? I don't know. Judging by where he was just a couple months ago, I'd say it would be unwise to count Gingrich out of the race entirely. But there's always going to be that unease that accompanies Gingrich for many folks - waiting for him to bizarrely espouse some wacko liberal idea out of the blue (catastrophic manmade global warming comes to mind, as does going after Paul Ryan and then later totally backtracking).
The PPP folks go on to state what should be abundantly clear to anyone paying attention right now:
Overall 70% of Republicans are either undecided right now or open to voting for someone different than who they're with now- that signals an extremely wide open race.
The Trump shenanigans, Daniels' refusal, Bachmann's meteoric rise and tumble, Palin's tease, Cain's surge, Perry's painful fade, Gingrich's slow ascent...wide open indeed.