Gingrich Holds Big Leads in Iowa, S.C. Polls

Gingrich Holds Big Leads in Iowa, S.C. Polls

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - December 6, 2011

Newt Gingrich holds a commanding lead over his Republican rivals for the White House in the critical early-voting states of Iowa and South Carolina, according to three new polls.

The former House speaker, who has been surging in both national and state polls, attracts 33 percent of the support from likely caucus-goers in the Hawkeye State, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday. Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney tie for second place with 18 percent each. Texas Gov. Rick Perry garners 11 percent of the support, and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann -- who won the Iowa straw poll in August -- receives 8 percent. Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator who has traveled to every county in Iowa, picks up 7 percent, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who isn't campaigning in the state, gets 2 percent of the support. Participants had the option of choosing Atlanta businessman Herman Cain on this ballot, but after he suspended his campaign on Saturday, the survey reallocated his supporters based on their second-choice candidate.

In the survey, voters say they trust Gingrich the most to handle the economy. He receives 31 percent of the support in this category while Paul attracts 21 percent, and Romney gets 20 percent. Twenty-seven percent of voters say they trust Gingrich to handle the nation's immigration issues, while 18 percent say the same for Perry. Thirteen percent prefer Paul on immigration, and 8 percent say they trust Romney the most on this issue.

A separate Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows a slightly closer race in Iowa. Gingrich attracts 27 percent of the support -- up 19 points since PPP's October poll. Paul garners 18 percent (up from 10 percent in October), and Romney gets 16 percent, dropping six points. Bachmann places fourth with 13 percent and Perry has 9 percent. Santorum gets 6 percent, and Huntsman receives 4 percent.

Gingrich gets the bulk of his support from seniors and those who identify with the Tea Party in Iowa. He leads Romney, 37 percent to 18 percent, among voters over the age of 65. The former lawmaker holds a 12-point lead over Bachmann among Tea Party voters. Romney only has 4 percent support among this group of voters.

A plurality of voters -- 33 percent -- say Gingrich has the best chance at beating President Obama in the general election. Twenty-three percent say the same for Romney. However, while Gingrich leads in Iowa, 51 percent of his supporters say they might end up backing someone else while 49 percent say they are strongly committed to him.

Gingrich also holds a strong 16-point lead in South Carolina with 38 percent of the support from likely Republican primary voters, according to a Winthrop University poll released Tuesday. Romney places second with 22 percent. None of the remaining candidates polls above 9 percent. South Carolina has correctly picked the Republican nominee for president in every election since 1980.

In Iowa, the Washington Post/ABC News poll was conducted among 356 likely Republican caucus-goers from Nov. 30-Dec. 4. The margin of error is six percentage points. PPP polled 572 likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers from Dec. 3-5. The sampling error is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

In South Carolina, Winthrop surveyed 1,073 registered voters from Nov. 27-Dec. 4. The margin of error is 2.99 percentage points. The results for likely Republican primary voters have a margin of error of plus or minus 5.38 percentage points.

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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