It looks like that surprising Insider Advantage poll Jonathan cited earlier today wasn’t a fluke. Rasmussen Reports just released a survey that also shows Newt Gingrich leading Mitt Romney by nine points in Florida, a massive turnaround from two weeks ago:
Less than two weeks ago, Mitt Romney had a 22-point lead in Florida, but that’s ancient history in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Following his big win in South Carolina on Saturday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich now is on top in Florida by nine.
The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Florida Republican Primary Voters, taken Sunday evening, finds Gingrich earning 41 percent of the vote with Romney in second at 32 percent. Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum runs third with 11 percent, while Texas Congressman Ron Paul attracts support from eight percent (8%). Nine percent (9%) remain undecided.
The one area where Romney has ceded significant ground to Gingrich is on the electability question. Of all the traits GOP voters look for in candidates, that one has topped the list, and it’s the area where Romney has typically excelled. But voters now say Gingrich would be a stronger general election candidate than Romney, by a 42 percent to 39 percent margin.
Oddly enough, Florida Republican voters still view Mitt Romney as the strongest candidate on the economy, by a 45 percent to 30 percent margin over Newt. Romney also leads Gingrich on “personal character,” 41 percent to 11 percent.
Romney’s latest strategy is to highlight Gingrich’s character issues – but if the former speaker is already nearing single digits in that area, how much room is there for these attacks to be effective? Floridians already seem to be aware of Newt’s personal flaws and perfectly willing to overlook them anyway. For Romney’s plan to have an impact, he’ll have to explain why Gingrich’s character issues would be a disqualifier in a general election. And it could be difficult to convince GOP voters of this if they’ve already accepted Newt’s baggage.