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Gingrich Surges into Lead as Cain Scandal Takes its Toll

The momentum that we started seeing late last week from Newt Gingrich is continuing, with two new polls out today showing the former Speaker surging into the lead. The competition has turned into a three-man race between Gingrich, Romney and Cain, though if Cain’s numbers continue to fall it might morph into a two-man race before long.

Here’s Public Policy Polling, which found an 18-point spike in Gingrich’s support during the past two months. Cain is still hanging on in the PPP poll, but as you can see, Rick Perry’s numbers have plummeted into also-ran territory:

Newt Gingrich has taken the lead in PPP’s national polling. He’s at 28 percent to 25 percent for Herman Cain and 18 percent for Mitt Romney.  The rest of the Republican field is increasingly looking like a bunch of also rans: Rick Perry is at 6 percent, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul at 5 percent, Jon Huntsman at 3 percent, and Gary Johnson and Rick Santorum each at 1 percent.

The CNN poll confirms the Newt surge, but it had slightly different findings on the other candidates. Romney and Gingrich are in a virtual tie in this one, and Cain has dropped 11 percent since last month. Perry’s support remains steady at 12 percent – it was 13 percent in October – which seems to suggest that the “oops” moment wasn’t a deal-breaker for his supporters:

According to a CNN/ORC International Poll released Monday, 24 percent of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say Romney is their most likely choice for their party’s presidential nominee with Gingrich at 22 percent. Romney’s two-point advantage is well within the survey’s sampling error. …

The poll also indicates that 14 percent back Cain, down 11 points from last month. Four women have alleged that Cain sexually harassed them during the late 1990s when he headed the National Restaurant Association. Cain denies the allegations. …

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is at 12 percent in the survey, basically all even with Cain for third place in the hunt for the nomination. Perry was at 13 percent in CNN’s October poll.

Gingrich is clearly benefiting from Cain’s crash, which is odd considering his own history of impropriety. PPP found indications that Gingrich has the most to gain from Cain’s collapse, as 73 percent of Cain supporters have a favorable opinion of the former Speaker.

The biggest loser here? Tim Pawlenty. With such a rapidly evolving GOP field, his decision to drop out is looking worse by the day. It’s a lesson to future candidates. If Gingrich could revive his comatose campaign, almost anybody can.