What's behind Gingrich's jump in the polls
November 14th, 2011
04:52 PM ET
11 years ago

What's behind Gingrich's jump in the polls

Washington (CNN) - It's the biggest headline in a national poll full of headlines: Newt Gingrich has surged and is now basically tied with Mitt Romney in the race for the GOP presidential nomination.

According to a CNN/ORC International Poll released Monday, 24% of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say Romney is their most likely choice for their party's presidential nominee with Gingrich at 22%. Romney's 2-point advantage is well within the survey's sampling error.

While the level of support has pretty much stayed the same for Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who's making his second bid for the White House, the former House speaker has seen his support jump 14 points since October.

"It's better than when I was at four [percent]," Gingrich said Monday on the campaign trail in Iowa.

But he cautions that anything could happen, saying that "this is the most volatile race of my lifetime."

The poll also indicates that 14% back businessman Herman Cain, down 11 points from last month. Four women have alleged that Cain sexually harassed them during the late 1990s when he headed the National Restaurant Association. Cain denies the allegations. Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered the race at the top of the pack but went into free-fall after a series of well-publicized stumbles. He sits at 12% in the CNN survey, basically tied with Cain.

So now it looks like it's Gingrich's turn to become the "anybody but Romney" candidate. If the GOP race becomes a two-man battle between Romney and Gingrich, the poll indicates they are well-matched. Romney and Gingrich are the two most popular Republican candidates among the GOP rank and file, and the only two with favorable ratings above 50% among the Republicans surveyed.

More than three-quarters of Republicans think both men have the right personal qualities to be president and more than seven in 10 Republicans say they agree with Gingrich and Romney on important issues.

"The key difference between Romney and Gingrich is electability. For the first time in CNN's polling, Romney now tops Barack Obama in a head-to-head matchup among registered voters. But Gingrich faces an 8-point deficit when paired with Obama in a general election matchup," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.

So what's behind Gingrich's rise in the new CNN poll and other recent surveys from other organizations?

Gingrich says that his well-received performances in the Republican presidential debates are one reason. His campaign was left for dead by many in late spring, after a number of top advisers and staffers quit and the campaign faced financial difficulties. But the former House Speaker has performed well in the 10 GOP presidential debates held this year, acting as the elder statesman while many of his rivals for the nomination attacked each other.

"I have to say, I'm very humbled that millions of people watched the debates and the general conclusion was that in fact I had real substance and real solutions," Gingrich said. "And that they prefer my approach of being positive to the kind of consultant-driven negativities that I think actually hurt the candidates that are negative."

"He's a sharp debater. He has been an intellectual and political force in the Republican Party in five different decades. When we started the race, we were assuming that was going to make it very difficult for him because the Republicans would be looking for a fresher face, said Ron Brownstein, Political Director for the Atlantic Media Company.

"There is the reality that there is a big chunk of the party, the more conservative, the more evangelical side of the party that does not want Mitt Romney and has simply not been able to settle on an alternative. So Gingrich is now getting his day in the sun," added Brownstein, a CNN political contributor.

With seven weeks to go until the Iowa caucuses, the first contest in the primary and caucus calendar, voters are now getting engaged in the race for the GOP nomination.

"As we get to within the six-weeks-to-go mark before the Iowa caucuses, Republican voters are going beyond test drives and are now sitting around the kitchen table deciding which candidate(s) will be best for their families. Thus, the drop in support for Cain and Perry which had been going into the 'undecided' column, is now to a large degree going into Newt's column," said Rich Galen, a GOP political analyst who advised Fred Thompson during his 2008 GOP presidential bid, and who is the author of Mullings.com, an online column.

"So, Newt's thinking goes, he doesn't need to beat Romney - he needs to consolidate the non-Romney vote and he's the only one who can do that," added Galen, who served as communications director for then-House Speaker Gingrich's political shop in the 1990s, but who is not taking sides in this nomination battle.

With the Iowa caucuses closing in, it appears Gingrich is surging at the right time. But the candidate doesn't appear to be getting cocky.

"This is a wild race, okay? Who knows what the polls are going to be two months from now. I mean, I'm not going to tell you that I'm on the way," Gingrich said. "The American people are really deeply concerned about our country. They have a real sense that something has to happen. And I think that they're going to keep pushing until they find somebody who can take the pressure and can withstand it."

- Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @PSteinhauserCNN

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • Newt Gingrich • Polls
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. yuri

    One man's fall is another man's climb, steeply. What is hard is selecting the lesser 3 evils, deep blue sea, fire or the rock. We mean Romney, GIngrich or Cain. One of the evils, Cain, is on its way down, rapidly. If the other two follow him suit, everything will be alright and the also-rans can also start packing.

    November 14, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  2. Orchid333

    Oh boy, time to put the crosshairs on Newt! Now we get to hear all about HIS dirty laundry. All these changes in the top GOP contenders tends to make great news, doesn't it? ((dripping with sarcasm))

    Okay people, let's get real. It's Mitt v/s Barrack, let's get to the general election already.

    November 14, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  3. Democrat Party - leftist "progressive" socialist communist losers hellbent on destroying the USA

    Could it be that he's extremely intelligent, offers real solutions, has won every debate, tells it like it is, has been there and done it before, .... Hmmm.... maybe it shouldn't be so surprising!

    November 14, 2011 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  4. Stacey

    What's behind Gingrich's jump in the polls? Desperation – that's what's behind it. Clown Bachmann had her shot, even bigger, dumber Clown Perry had his shot, Cain the 999 Clown, who can't keep his hands off blondes, had his shot, the GOP Tea Party doesnt want Romney. Now it's the Grinch's turn. LOL!

    November 14, 2011 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  5. Dustin

    Question: Whats behind Newt's jump in the polls?
    Answer: The Media
    Reason: Hermain Cain is done Media needs a new stooge.

    November 14, 2011 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  6. Former Republican, now an Independent

    It's simple. Gingrich is rising because he is a bad candidate in a field of really bad candidates. The U.S. will be in real trouble if any of these candidates get elected. Their ideas of how to fix the economy, are the same failed policies that got us in this mess. When will we Americans ever wise up and realize that these people are the representatives of the wealthy minority, that have the money to speak louder than the working class majority.

    November 14, 2011 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  7. Max

    Blazing Cardboard Box

    Newt's rise can simply be compared to a blazing cardboard box. He certainly has no credibility and no moral standard to live in the white house. The man is wombat! He has been involved in many shady deals and is just too controversial. Why should Americans believe a man who does not even have the trust of his wife.

    She has to be behind him like a man behind his dog on a leash, for the first chance he gets he might just bolt across the fence where, for him, the grass is really greener. Americans know Gingrich far too well to trust him with the presidential office.

    The republicans are in trouble. They cannot find a qualified conservative candidate to represent them and stand up against a strong president like Obama. It got to be Mitt, but 'which Mitt'?

    This cardboard box will stop blazing and pretty soon, Newt will be down to its ashes! Trust me on this one.

    November 14, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    GOP math:

    KochCain sexual harrassment implosion + Cowboy Fonzie epic debate fail = Newetered is the new "anyone but Mittens."

    We've gone from Black Walnut to White Chalk-o-late.

    November 14, 2011 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    GOP math:

    KochCain harrassment implosion + Cowboy Fonzie epic debate fail = Newetered is the new "anyone but Mittens."

    We've gone from Black Walnut to White Chalk-o-late.

    November 14, 2011 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  10. Woman In California

    He REALLY and sadly represents what the republicans are looking for. Hint: older, white (so called Christian) males.

    They also know Willard doesn't stand a chance in halos of getting elected.

    November 14, 2011 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  11. Lenmsith

    He is very smart and has high morals to match. He would be the best person to run against President Obama, because he is so very pro-family and a very kind person, who would bring governing peace to the government.

    November 14, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  12. Rick McDaniel

    Simple......Gingrich is the most knowledgeable person running. He has either tied, or won, every debate.

    November 14, 2011 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  13. Ray

    GOP symbol of hypocrisy

    November 14, 2011 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  14. Aaron Allen

    If the public is so mindless that they allow any news network to manipulate them into choosing or not choosing a candidate, they will get a candidate of no substance who walks and talks in line with the network but who doesn't have this nation's best interest at heart. More of the same old politician that has gotten this nation in the problems it's now in. It's time for people to think for themselves and stop allowing others to think for them!

    November 14, 2011 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  15. krissmith777

    He's not Mitt Romney. That's why he's rising.

    November 14, 2011 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  16. The Greedy Old Pigs are a neocon deathcult

    Newt is just part of Karl Rove's plan to have Romney nominated. Rove needs someone to consolidate the "anyone but Mitt" GOBP deathcult members. Then Newt, who wants the money and not the job, will made an offer he cannot refuse in exchange for his endorsement of Mittens and his (Newter's) assurances to the anti-Mitt crowd that Mittens can be trusted after all. Perhaps Newt will be offered a cushy administration job as well as the price for his betrayal.

    November 14, 2011 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  17. Me, In Houston

    There are 3 reasons behind Gingrich's jump in the polls
    #1. with a bullet. He is not Mitt Romney

    #2. He's not Black. you didn't really think the GOtP was going to be led by a black man did you?!?! you crazy fool

    #3...ummm. errrrr, uhhhhhh, I can't remember the 3rd one...OOPS!

    November 14, 2011 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  18. Alex

    Media bias plain and simple. Newt will fall once the media digs out his past. How about a boost for Ron Paul ????? He's clearly one of the most intelligent candidates there is out there and his grassroots support is pretty damn enthusiastic.

    November 14, 2011 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  19. Nothing new here

    The 'anybody but Mitt' crowd is getting desperate. It is ashame that they cannot put their support behind the one good candidate – Ron Paul.
    But I guess it will be just a matter of time...one can only hope.

    November 14, 2011 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  20. TXJim

    Obama campaign is cheering the rise of unelectable Gingrich..

    Every candidate over the last 30 years who won.. had the majority of women voting for him.. that's one voting block you are guaranteed not to win, Newt..

    November 14, 2011 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  21. curious

    It does not make a difference who the republican candiate will be. They will have to follow the established republicans' political agenda. The question is which candiate believes he can get a super majority vote from the House and the Senate backing any of his or her initiatives. lol.

    November 14, 2011 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  22. Not fooled

    It doesn't matter it will be Obama-Biden 2012.

    November 14, 2011 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  23. mustang 5.0

    He's the only Candidate that has any Political Experience (Former House Speaker). Its a solid story for the Mighty Media to follow!

    November 14, 2011 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  24. Lisa

    Could be that he is following the adage "better to be thought a fool then to speak and remove all doubt". He's kept a low profile, kept his mouth shut while the others have continually opened theirs and shoved that foot further and further in.

    November 14, 2011 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  25. Andrew

    Here's the thing, every time a new candidate appears, they immediately shoot to the top of the polls, only to fall back down to the bottom when voters realize they have no substance. It happened with Bachman, Perry, and now Cain. Romney stands no chance. He cannot win over Tea Party Votes. For that matter, as much as I hate to admit it, neither does Ron Paul. Can the GOP come up with ONE decent candidate that actually stands a chance against Obama?!

    November 14, 2011 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |