After his game-changing win in South Carolina, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich continues to ride his surge to the front of the pack among likely Republican primary voters nationwide. He now leads Mitt Romney by seven points.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely GOP Primary Voters shows Gingrich with 35% of the vote, representing an eight-point increase in support from last week.
Just two percent (2%) prefer some other candidate in the race, while nine percent (9%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
A week ago, it was Romney 30%, Gingrich 27%, Santorum 15% and Paul 13%. Texas Governor Rick Perry who has since dropped out of the race and endorsed Gingrich earned four percent (4%) in that survey.
Support for Gingrich has jumped a total of 19 points in two surveys
since early January, while Romney's support has held steady in that same period. Gingrich's highest level of national support to date, however, came in late November when he captured 38% of the vote after receiving less than 15% in prior surveys.
Romney held a 22-point lead over Gingrich in Florida two weeks ago, but new Rasmussen Reports polling released Monday shows the former speaker with 41% support now among likely GOP primary voters in the Sunshine State with Romney in second at 32%. The Florida Primary is on January 31.
Thirty-nine percent (39%) of GOP voters nationwide now believe Gingrich would be the strongest opponent against President Obama in the general election, while 37% say that of Romney. This represents a big shift from last week, when 43% viewed Romney as the strongest Obama opponent and 29% said the same of Gingrich. Sixty-two percent (62%) consider Paul the weakest general election opponent to Obama.
Last week, 70%, regardless of whom they support, said Romney would ultimately be the party’s nominee. Now just 51% share that view, with 32% who think Gingrich will be the eventual nominee, up from 13% in the previous survey.
Among Republican primary voters nationwide, 35% think Romney is the GOP candidate who would do a better job managing the economy, but almost as many (32%) feel Gingrich would do the better job. When it comes to national security and defense, Gingrich is the clear leader: 51% think he would do a better job versus 18% who say the same of Romney. As for which candidate is best in terms of social issues, 28% prefer Gingrich, 25% Santorum and 23% Romney.