(CNN) - Newt Gingrich's lead in three key battleground states has expanded into the double digits, according to a poll released Thursday, but Mitt Romney is still slightly more competitive in potential match-ups with President Barack Obama.
The survey - from Quinnipiac University - shows Gingrich, the former House speaker, pulling away with a clear advantage in Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio.
Florida, which will hold its closely watched primary on January 31, has seen heavy campaign traffic from the GOP candidates, including Gingrich, who campaigned there in late November.
When presented with the Republican candidates vying for the 2012 nomination, 35% of registered Florida Republicans said they'd back Gingrich, while 22% named Romney. The other candidates all fared in the single digits.
In a potential race against the incumbent president, however, Romney held a more competitive position than Gingrich. Romney slipped past Obama in a general election match-up 45%-42%. When Obama faced Gingrich, the former House speaker garnered 44% and Obama nabbed 46%.
Gingrich's rise among his Republican rivals is a steep increase from the last Quinnipiac poll in Florida. That survey, taken in early November, put former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 21% in Florida, and Gingrich at 17%.
The frontrunner back then was Herman Cain, the former Godfather's Pizza executive who suspended his presidential campaign last week. Twenty-seven percent of Florida Republicans backed Cain in the earlier poll.
Gingrich saw a similar spike in Ohio, where 36% of registered Republicans said they'd vote for the former speaker. Romney followed nearly 20 points behind at 18%. Again, the other candidates in the race all polled in the single digits.
Romney and Gingrich fared identically against Obama in a hypothetical Ohio general election, each picking up 43% of respondents compared to Obama's 42%.
Like Florida, Ohio's numbers for Gingrich are sharply different from a month ago, when 11% of Republicans said they'd back him, compared to 20% who supported Romney and 25% who picked Cain.
Ohio votes relatively late on the primary and caucus calendar, but if no clear frontrunner emerges by the time Ohioans go to the polls, the state's large number of delegates will be coveted by candidates hoping to secure the nomination.
Pennsylvania, which is considered a must-win for Obama in the 2012 general election, shows narrow margins between the president and the two frontrunning Republican rivals.
In a match-up with Romney, Obama sneaks by 46% to 43%. Gingrich fares worse, getting 40% of the vote to Obama's 48%.
Like Ohio, Pennsylvania holds a late presidential primary. Gingrich is running well ahead of his Republican rivals, with the backing of 31% of registered Republicans. Romney, in second, was at 17%.
In all three states, Obama's approval rating stood well below 50%. In Florida and Ohio, 41% of voters approved Obama's job performance, while in Pennsylvania 43% approved. Obama won all three states in the 2008 election.
The Quinnipiac poll was taken by telephone from November 28-December 5. In Florida, 1,226 voters were polled and the sampling error was plus or minus 2.8 percentage points. 1,437 voters in Ohio were surveyed, with a sampling error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. In Pennsylvania, the poll reached 1,453 voters and had a sampling error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.
A brash Christie takes on OWS, shares Romney's personal side
GOP candidates court Jewish Republicans
Gingrich confident in campaign's staying power
CNN Poll: Gingrich front-runner in 3 of first 4 states to vote
These polls are such a joke. If that moron gets the nomination then God helps us all.
Vote for Ron Paul
I think this illustrates quite clearly that those controlling the Republican party are out of touch with the majority of the American electorate. America may not be a liberal nation, but they are certainly not as conservative as the Republican right would like to believe.
Only one thing to say about the Newt: BIGGEST HYPOCRITE EVER!!!
I can't believe CNN's expert Christine Roman's video explaining the reduced social security contributions they are billing as payroll tax cuts fails to mention the real reason Congress and the Prez are behind it is they know future workers living in America will simply have ot pay back whatever reduced contributions they allow now. If they had any balls and were honest, they would reduce income taxes by 2%, not social security but they won't do that because it will become all too obvious that in doing so, every dollar of income tax they do not receive because of the break will simply need ot be funded with more debt as we are running a budget deficit every year now. They should cut government spending significantly and let the eceonomy work through the hard times and stop using debt to delay the inevitiable, a true market correction. GD politicians. Patriots they are not.
The bipartisan Pew Research Center Poll released last week showed that 20% of Americans support the Tea Party. One year ago it was 27%, and over 30% before that. As people continue to learn more about the objectives of the Tea party, this percentage will continue to drop. The Tea Party does not compromise and focuses instead on perpetuating mistrust in our government. An aim of the Tea Party is to convince the population that our own democratically elected government cannot do anything right, part of their plot to discredit all government spending. Furthermore, a central goal of the Tea Party is to increase the paranoia that our own government is our greatest enemy and hinders our freedom
my vote will go to Obama if Gingrich is the GOP canidate........If I have to vote for a Republican I would vote for Roomney over the rest.
But it looks like this network is working hard to swing opinion in favour of romney.
Great to see that the Corporate polling is continuing the same accurate results as it did during the last presidential election. If I'm not mistaken Gallup had Hillary all but cleaning up on Barack Obama with incredible double digit gains and Rudy Giuliani was being touted as the Republican nominee one month before the primaries.
Not that it matters. What does matter is that dollars continue to flow into the campaign coffers - which Hillary can explain better than I. She never had a chance, but did get a whole lot of money - even knowing she wasn't going to win the nomination. She did drag it out to the very end though. As did Huckabee. Both of them in the red.
why do we continue to put the race between newt and romney?!? romney is a flip flopper and newt is a crook! the only clear cut, sound candidate in this race is RON PAUL...but America is too blind to even notice...we wonder why our country is headed in such a terrible direction..
There's a reason Newt is the "former" speaker of the House. Just saying...
I love how this article does not mention the fact that Ron Paul actually has the best chance of beating Obama, such a FAIL CNN, and what happened to the phrase top-tier candidates? I guess that cant be used when RON PAUL is in it again!
Gingrich is terrible on immigration issues. He killed a bill in the 1990's to require employers to check the status of workers, and now he wants to had out red cards to illegals. I am a moderate. I would vote for Romney, but not Gingrich.
There is no one more morally bankrupt and less able to govern than Gingrich. He was forced out as Speaker of the House BY HIS OWN REPUBLICAN MAJORITY because of his arrogance and moral hypocrisy. He was married three times, and committed adultery God knows how many times.
Romney is a good family man, and very decent guy. With him, we won't have to deal with four years of exposes and scandals.
C'mon Mitt – you have a lot of backers out there and the extreme right wing is trying to take the election away from you which will result in four more years of Obama. You are a sharp guy, steady and squeaky clean – but that's your problem – you need to get fired up and LEAD the GOP into defeating Obama. This is a critical time in American history – show some emotion – that's how you will win the hearts of the rest of the GOP. You are obviously the most Qualified candidate to not only capture independents and Democrats, but to actually fix this nation. But you need to be strong as well!
all bad guys of GOP....
so the moderator is backing one of the candidates? Yes, sounds fair and balanced doesn't it? And he knows what? About bankruptcy? Family inherited money, and cheating on your wife. Sounds like a circus instead of a debate.
Obama is focused on attacking Romney because he knows Romney can beat him in November. Obama knows many Democrates and independants hate the idea of a Tea Party type (Newt) being on the ballot against Obama just in case Obama can't pull off a victory. So Obama is fighting to keep Democrates from voting for Mitt in the open primary states. But if you hate Newt and the Tea Party types (remember the debt ceiling fight) register to vote in the Republican primary and vote for Mitt. The sooner Mitt is nominated, the sooner the Tea Party Congress will sober up and quit holding the contry hostage.
Don't read the article america, read the comments, and the truth about what people are really thinking!!!
Gingrich bested Romney by a bunch in this poll. . .but Obama was much stronger against Gingrich than Romney.