The exit of businessman Herman Cain has brought even more GOP voters to the candidacy of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich: In this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll, Gingrich holds a 16-point lead over his closest rival. Gingrich has the support of three in ten registered voters who say they will vote in a Republican primary or caucus next year; 15% choose former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Texas Governor Rick Perry, who once led the field, is now the choice of 9% of likely GOP voters, better than he has been doing recently. Texas Congressman Ron Paul receives 11%.
One critical difference Republican voters see between Gingrich and Romney echoes a charge against Romney that has been made by both Democrats and by Gingrich: that he changes his positions based on election needs. That charge has clearly stuck to Romney among GOP voters, 72% of whom say Romney says what he thinks people want to hear, NOT what he really believes. In contrast, their opinions of Gingrich are very different: 60% say Gingrich says mostly what he really believes.
Romney and Gingrich also get the most support when GOP voters are asked for their second choice. Romney has been believed to be the more electable of the GOP contenders, but this poll suggests that does not differentiate the candidates among Republican voters. 69% of Republican voters believe the party will nominate someone who has a strong chance of winning against President Obama. Eight in ten Tea Party supporters agree.
Gingrich and Romney both trail President Obama by small margins in fall 2012 head-to-head matchups. Ron Paul, who has been competing for third place in the GOP field, also does about as well as the other frontrunners. Including registered voters who say they lean one way or the other, Gingrich trails the President by 4 points while Paul and Romney trail him by two.
Photo source: Press Association