Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia holds a lead in Iowa, where the first Republican presidential nomination votes will be cast a month from now, according to a poll released yesterday.
Gingrich has the support of 25 percent of likely caucus participants in the latest Iowa Poll from the Des Moines Register newspaper. U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas was next, with 18 percent, followed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at 16 percent. Sixty percent of poll participants said they could change their minds, while 11 percent said they’re undecided before the Jan. 3 caucuses.
“This is still anyone’s game,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of West Des Moines-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the Register’s poll. “What Romney has going for him is that neither Gingrich or Paul have dealt with much scrutiny.”
U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota recorded support from 8 percent in the poll, the same showing as Herman Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza Inc. who dropped out of the race yesterday because of what he said was excessive media attention to allegations of improper sexual conduct on his part.
Perry, Santorum, Huntsman
Texas Governor Rick Perry has work to do in Iowa if he wants to regain his standing in the race, the poll shows. He has support from 6 percent of likely caucus participants. Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who has spent more time in Iowa than any other candidate, also stood at 6 percent. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., who isn’t actively competing in Iowa, was backed by 2 percent.
The survey of 401 likely Republican caucus participants was conducted Nov. 27-30 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
Gingrich has the potential to increase his support in Iowa, the newspaper said in its report. More respondents choose him as their second choice than any other candidate.
A Bloomberg News poll in Iowa done Nov. 10-12 by the same polling company used by the Register showed Gingrich, Paul and Romney in a dead heat with Cain, all at around 20 percent. In the latest poll, Cain’s support had fallen to 8 percent even before he announced he would be ending his campaign.
Gingrich Likely Benefits
“Newt Gingrich is the likely beneficiary” of Cain’s departure, Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday.” Among Cain’s backers in the Bloomberg poll, Gingrich was the second choice of 28 percent, followed by Perry at 23 percent. Romney and Paul were each the second choice of 14 percent of Cain supporters.
An NBC News/Marist poll conducted Nov. 27-29 showed Gingrich leading Romney in Iowa. Gingrich had the support of 26 percent of likely Republican caucus participants compared with 18 percent for Romney, according to the NBC News/Marist poll of 425 people. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.
“I think a lot of people inside the Beltway and outside the Beltway woke up today to a very different political environment and one in which Newt Gingrich is very much for real,” said Robert Gibbs, the former White House press secretary now serving as an Obama campaign adviser, on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program.
A hard fought primary isn’t “anything unique in American politics” and a prolonged process wouldn’t hurt Republicans’ chances of winning the White House said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee.
“I mean Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama nearly gouged each other’s eyes out through the end of June before a national convention and guess what: Barack Obama won pretty easily,” Priebus said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.
Gingrich Opens Office
Gingrich, 68, opened his first campaign office in Iowa on Nov. 30, the last major candidate to do so.
In a televised Republican presidential forum last night, Gingrich defended his fiscal conservative credentials, arguing that his achievements in Congress outweigh his past support for mandating health insurance and calls to address climate change - - both opposed by Republican conservative-base voters.
Gingrich said he has come to view both his health insurance stance and his involvement in a 2008 climate change public service advertisement with former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as mistakes.
“Newt is someone who likes to get issues that are 80 to 90 percent in the polls, and 80 percent in the polls are generally not necessarily conservative -- strong conservative issues,” rival Santorum said on ABC’s “This Week” program. “But that’s how Newt is -- has always tried to govern.’”
Romney Iowa Effort
Romney, 64, has also increased his efforts in Iowa in recent weeks, after taking a below-the-radar approach to the state for much of the year, as he sought to manage expectations.
One of Romney’s highest-profile surrogates, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, is set to visit Iowa on Dec. 7, about a week after his campaign started television advertising there.
Romney yesterday also picked up the endorsement of the Sioux City Journal, a newspaper that circulates in northwest Iowa, a heavily Republican area.
In the televised forum, Romney defended his past position on health care when asked how he would answer Barack Obama if the Democratic president said his health-care overhaul --reviled by Republicans for requiring that everyone buy medical insurance
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