(CNN) – Newt Gingrich is the frontrunner for the GOP nomination in the early primary states of South Carolina and Florida, but he and fellow top-tier candidate Mitt Romney fall short when faced with President Barack Obama, according to a new survey.
The NBC News/Marist poll released Sunday showed Gingrich, the former House speaker, leading Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, by 19 percentage points in South Carolina and by 15 points in Florida as he continues his surge in the 2012 race.
In South Carolina, which hosts the first primary in the South, Gingrich received 42% to Romney's 23% among likely Republican primary voters. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas followed with 9% while Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Texas Gov. Rick Perry tied at 7%. The other candidates received less than 5%. A similar survey taken in October had Romney vying for the lead with then-candidate Herman Cain, who suspended his campaign amid controversy earlier this month.
In Florida, the site of another early primary, Gingrich led Romney by 44% to 29%, followed by Paul with 8% among likely Republican primary voters. The remaining candidates received less than 5%. The Sunshine State figures are another blow to Romney, who was in a close battle with Cain for the top spot in the October poll.
CNN/TIME/ORC polls released recently showed similar results with Gingrich ahead of Romney by 23 percentage points in South Carolina and Florida.
However, Obama would beat Gingrich and Romney in both states, according to polling results on such hypothetical general election match-ups in South Carolina, a reliably Republican state and the battleground of Florida.
Obama, who lost South Carolina to Sen. John McCain in 2008, leads Romney there, 45% to 42%, a disparity within the margin of error. Obama also leads Gingrich 46% to 42%. The result is a reversal for Romney, who bested the president by six percentage points in the October poll.
In Florida, a state Obama captured in the last election, he would beat Romney 48% to 41% and Gingrich 51% to 39% in a potential match-up. In October, voters were divided between Romney and Obama.
The new figures also showed voters in the two crucial states are more committed to their choices than they were in October, with 43% of likely Republican primary voters in South Carolina saying they are firmly behind their choice and 47% saying the same in Florida.
However, Gingrich received more loyal support from his backers than Romney. Half of the voters in South Carolina who said they were behind Gingrich reported unwavering support, while 34% who backed Romney said the same. The difference was even greater in Florida, where 60% of Gingrich backers said they were strongly behind him and 38% said the same about Romney.
In South Carolina, 2,107 registered voters, 957 potential Republican primary voters and 635 likely voters were questioned by telephone between Dec. 4 and Dec. 6, with respective sampling errors of 2.1 percentage points, 3.2 percentage points and 3.9 percentage points.
In Florida, 2,119 registered voters, 683 potential Republican primary voters and 469 likely voters were questioned by telephone between Dec. 4 and Dec. 7, with respective sampling errors of 2.1 percentage points, 3.8 percentage points and 4.5 percentage points.