Washington (CNN) - Newt Gingrich tops the list in the race for the GOP nomination, according to a new national survey.
And a CNN/ORC International Poll released on the eve of a CNN presidential debate focusing heavily on national security and foreign affairs also indicates Republicans consider the former House Speaker the most qualified GOP candidate to be Commander-in-Chief.
See full results (PDF)
Programming note: GOP presidential candidates face off at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday, November 22, in the CNN Republican National Security Debate in Washington, D.C.
According to the survey, 24% of Republicans and independent voters who lean towards the GOP say they are most likely to support Gingrich for their party's nomination, with 20% saying they back Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is making his second bid for the presidency.
Gingrich's four point margin over Romney is within the survey's sampling error. A CNN poll released one week ago had Romney at 24% and Gingrich at 22%. Gingrich was at just 8% in a CNN poll in October.
Gingrich's campaign was left for dead by many in May and June, following a number of controversies that spurred some of his top advisers and staffers quit, and that left the campaign coffers in the red.
But the former House Speaker has performed well in 10 major GOP presidential debates held this year, acting as the elder statesman while many of his rivals for the nomination attacked each other.
"I entered this race with a huge amount of background story, some public, some private, which led people initially to think, 'Well, I'm not sure I want him.' And part of what the debates have done is they've been able to see me without editing, and, therefore, they've been able to say, 'Gee, that's not the guy I thought he was,' " Gingrich recently told CNN's Piers Morgan.
"It seems likely that Gingrich's performance in past debates has helped him - 43% say he is the Republican candidate who best understands complex issues, more than double the number who say that about Romney," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Gingrich gets another chance to shine Tuesday, when he along with seven of his GOP rivals face off in a CNN presidential debate on national security, foreign policy and the economy. CNN is teaming up with the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute, two long time Republican-leaning think thanks, to put on the debate, which is being held just a few blocks from the White House.
According to the survey, on national security issues, 36% of Republicans say Gingrich is most qualified to be commander-in-chief - 16 points higher than Romney.
Former Godfather's Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain garners support from 17% of the Republicans surveyed. Cain was at 25% support in CNN polling last month, but slipped after a controversy over sexual harassment allegations from his time as head of the National Restaurant Association during the late 1990s.
Rick Perry is at 11% in the new poll. The Texas governor soared to frontrunner status soon after he entered the race in mid-August, but thanks to stumbles in the debates this autumn, Perry's numbers dropped and are now holding steady in the low double digits. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who is making his third run for the White House, is at 9%, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota is at 5%, with former Sen. Rick Santorum at 3% and former Utah Gov. and former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman at 3%.
While Gingrich has some major strengths, the poll indicates he also has some weaknesses. Only 9% of Republicans say he is the most likable candidate. Republican voters also don't think he's the best choice for getting the economy moving again, and they see Romney, not Gingrich, as the Republican with the best chance of beating President Barack Obama next November.
Gingrich is the latest GOP candidate to surge in national and state surveys, following Bachmann, Perry and Cain. Bachmann and Perry slid after their initial surges, and Cain may be headed in the same direction.
"But don't think that Gingrich has risen in the polls simply because other alternatives to Romney have fizzled," adds Holland. "The number of Republicans who would be pleased or enthusiastic if he won the party's nomination has grown from 51% in May to 70% now - not the kind of numbers you would expect if voters were 'settling' for Gingrich."
Although he is no longer at the top of the list, Romney is viewed as the most likable candidate, and the one most likely to get the economy moving again. And significantly, by a two-to-one margin, Republicans say Romney is the candidate with the best chance to beat Obama.
Although many Republicans are clearly looking for an alternative to Romney, they don't oppose him. Only 28% say they would be displeased or upset if Romney won the GOP nod.
The poll also indicates that the race is far from over: Only 27% of Republicans say they have definitely made up their minds.
The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International from November 18-20, with 1,019 adult Americans, including 402 Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP, questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error for Republican primary questions is plus or minus five percentage points.
They will pick anyone so long as Obama does not win. Karma is a B. These republicans can hang it up. Everyone see their hatred. America has gone past their type of politics and way of living. We are too diverse to let the good old boy redneck population take over and return us back to the 50's. True Americans please get out and vote and save our future from these republican/tea party nut jobs. These people are really insane.
Newt Gingrich on top the best the Republicans can offer God help us all........
It is very sad , because Mr. Gingrich played such an important secret role in the planning of the war inI raq and Afghanitan in the first place.. Hired as a consultant to the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, by Rumsfled, and Cheney, Newt was involved from the start, that is in September of 2001, just days after the September 11th attack, invited to a 19 hours planning meeting at the Pentagon, on what to do in response to the 9-11-2001 attack. Even at this early date Newt was pushing the invasion of Iraq as the opportunity to replace Saddam....nothing more, the members of that meeting agreed to attack Iraq as soon as the initial phase of the war with Afghanistan was over. Newt has stated ”If we don’t use this as the moment to replace Saddam after we replace the Taliban, we are setting the stage for disaster.” Newt was right there with Cheney and Rumsfled involved in several meetings at the Pentagon and the CIA.
Newt has the blood of sooo many U.S. soldiers on his hands, it is shameful. Was it Newt's idea to disband the Iraq army and send them home, so they could loot the power plants for copper, loot the Iraqi arms depots for weapons, use weapons as IED's, blow up oil wells, blow up oil pipelines....Leave a mess turn the Iraqi people against the U.S. and toward Iran....
Go Home Newt.....
Gingrich....Smart guy, not a people person, no sense of humor, very qualified, and ethically challenged. Welcome back Mr. Nixon.
Another bought an paid for politician who continues to espouse everyone else's morals and ethics while ignoring his own. I warned you to watch for someone suddenly rising to the top. He/She will be the choice of the powers that have controlled this country for several decades. IT IS TIME to stand up against these people and elect true leadership; people who will tell the truth, even if it does not get them elected.
Gingrich is a crook and a liar.
Newt is the right man for the job at the right time. He will beat Obama.
Obama has to run on his record and that will ensure that he is a one term President.
Obama is the worst President we have ever had. Just look at his record and lack of leadership.
I pulled for Obama but he let us all down. It really wasn't his fault, he just wasn't (isn't) qualified.
Welcome Newt! you will be Newtenized by President Obama during the debates, can't wait for that!!!
Ron Paul 2012 !!!! Best choice for America
It couldn't be a more delightful quandary for the Republican "family values" meatheads to put themselves into. Gingrinch-who-stole-Christmas, the unfaithful and morally ambiguous candidate vs. Obama, who, whatever the right thinks about his politics, hasn't been able to come up with any dirt on his family life.
Newt for commander of most wars started?
My 13 year old dog would make a better president.
Reverse phycology through the media again, they did the same thing for the Obama adminstration....
Silly Republicans how deep did you guys have to dig to bring this dishonest liar out on top
Newt Gingrich is just a more experienced schwindler then the rest of the GOP candidates.
swindler (plural swindlers)
1.A person who swindles, cheats or defrauds.
Has anyone actually looked into those evil beatty little eyes of the devil (sorry) I mean newt Cha Ching! I'm Rich!
To go on the tube and say that the OWS protesters should get a job and take a bath! are you kidding me!
This guy is the total embodiement of every thing wrong with Washington!!!!!
Please let him be the candidate for the GOP he will get smashed and everybody will find out what a scunbag he is!!
The gop is more concerned about a pledge to raise no taxes,with grover i mean rover n.
what a joke,let america fail because of a pledge
CNN is just trying to sell ad space......."the most trusted news source"...NO more... how bout " reality TV pathetic news show" CNN use to be a very good source of information that a viewer could use to form an opinion.....not any more. Com on Wolf..you have more integrity then this.
If you voted for Obama in 2008 to prove you were not a racist then you will have to vote for Newt to prove youre not an idiot!
Here is a novel idea cnn.........How about you do a poll right on your website....in plain view of EVERYBODY and leave it for a whole week and THEN see what happens. We know that won't happen because we all KNOW what the results would be.....
His higher numbers in the polls will not last. Either Huntsman or Santorum are next in line. Paul is unlikely in my view to garner much above 15% nationally.
Thats interesting... I'm watching people die at the hands of milatary ruled government on Al Jazeera English. :(
Newt Paid CNN to make this story up.
Ron Paul 2012.
Wow..sucks to be a repub right about now. Talk about bottom of the barrel with Gingrich..lol. And you can forget Ron Paul as the next runner up. Dude looks like he'll blow away with the wind. lol. Obama/Biden 2012
The media is losing their credibility with a lot of people.
RON PAUL 2012
I have only one question to ask Newt: Are you planning to divorce your current wife should she be diagnosed for cancer? Newt: thy name is hypocrisy.
My 14 year old dog would make a better president.