Earlier we posted on the Newtmentum in Florida based on the Rasmussen and InsiderAdvantage polls. Tonight, Public Policy Polling (which is having a great year) weighs in with the pre-debate numbers, putting Newt Gingrich ahead by 5 points over Mitt Romney:
PPP's first post-South Carolina poll in Florida finds Newt Gingrich with a small lead. He's at 38% to 33% for Mitt Romney, 13% for Rick Santorum, and 10% for Ron Paul.The full results, all 304 pages, are here (.pdf)
Gingrich has gained 12 points since a PPP poll conducted in Florida a week ago. Romney has dropped 8 points. Paul and Santorum have pretty much remained in place. Their favorability numbers show similar trendlines. Gingrich's has increased 8 points from +15 (51/36) to +23 (57/34). Meanwhile Romney's has declined 13 points from +44 (68/24) to +31 (61/30).
Among the interesting findings:
We asked a question about both Romney and Gingrich pertaining to the general election, and the results are telling. 50% of primary voters say they would enthusiastically support Gingrich, while only 46% say the same for Romney. But at the same time 15% of primary voters say they would not vote for Gingrich in the general election, while only 9% say that about Romney. GOP voters might be more excited about Gingrich than Romney...but Romney would be the stronger candidate against Barack Obama, with most people willing to unify around him whether they love him or not. Voters may need to decide just how badly they want to win in the fall.Indeed. When you watch the debates, that's the key point. For all of Newt's surge, and for all of the very real questions about Romney's core and whether there's a "there" there, Romney has not lost yet and Newt has not won yet.
Newt's continuing to do well with all the groups he dominated with in South Carolina. He's up 42-23 with Evangelicals, 46-20 with Tea Partiers (Mitt's actually in 3rd with them), 42-28 with men, and 44-23 with voters describing themselves as 'very conservative,' which is the largest ideological group in the Florida electorate.
Losing Florida would be a major setback for Romney, and the only way for him to win it is to beat Newt. And that's something he's going to have to do in tonight's debate, without surrogates.
In less than an hour, game on.