Gingrich at top of pack for first time in CNN polling
November 21st, 2011
04:01 PM ET
10 years ago

Gingrich at top of pack for first time in CNN polling

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.

Filed under: 2012 • CNN/ORC International poll • Newt Gingrich • Republicans
soundoff (313 Responses)
  1. Rae

    You know I read an article that a supercomputer predicted that the US was due for a revolution. I promise that if this Gingrich guy becomes an option for President I will join that supercomputer in revolting. Because his latest comments about putting poor kids to work because they need to respect and have experience in the work force just so he doesn't have to answer questions about his own dirty past is bull. You show me one rich kid that knows the first thing about actual work. I grew up in a poor family and I knew by eight what it meant to work. I had a job at eight, I had to if I wanted school clothes. By the time I was 12 I didn't dare grow because every sent I made helped support my family. You show me one damn rich kid that knows anything about hard work and sacrifice and I'll show you a liar. That man better not make the Presidential ballot, because here is a clue for you rich Gingrich's out there. There are a lot more of use poor "middle class" than there are of you. Without our hard work you would have nothing. We may be underpaid, often overlooked, and definitely under appreciated but without us they'd have nothing. They wouldn't have goods to sell without us working in the factories. They wouldn't even be able to stand their own kids if they didn't have nannies and boarding schools to send their kids to. Your pathetic Gingrich and it is now my mission in life to see that you don't ever become President of these United States because I will speak out as much as I can to make sure that the United States of America is UNITED in seeing that you never hold another government office again.

    November 21, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  2. newcomer

    As far as the selection for the R party I am unknow, no money, no backers and I just might win as it stands today. Looks like any one has a chance. I am a Christian, believe in being moral and God gives me direction. However, I cant deal with liers.

    November 21, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  3. chris taylor

    LOL, Everybody knows who the real leader of this race is Attention CNN your transparent censorship and tmanipulation of the news is not working! Ron Paul is the front runner and everybody knows it. Everybody Knows! AND I LOVE IT!!!

    November 21, 2011 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  4. Corbin

    It's almost like the GOP is so corrupt, they hate themselves. They don't want to win. They know they don't deserve the presidency so they're going to parade a bunch of ass-clowns in front of the American people to ensure Obama wins re-election in a landslide...

    November 21, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  5. open400

    Too many credibility issues here: If he lied to his second wife(who had cancer at the time) about his private life and his love affair with his future to be third wife, what problem would he have lying to the American people about foreign policy? What if he lies to his third wife while in office and we have a President going through divorce while in office? Sorry Newt, we can not risk another liar like Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton as President.

    November 21, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  6. eastdallas

    Well, Newt was well-qualified 10 years ago, however things have really changed in the current economy. As a voter, I would consider whether he is truly internet savvy, have what it takes to revamp the banking industry, up to speed on global relations, and does he have a clue about how to turn around the treasury and education. His track record as the Speaker does not truly support him going forward, just because he held a job on Capital Hill.
    Does Newt have what it takes to unravel Congress, reorganize the IRS, accept standarding modern envirnonmental change, and revise laws that would better field the agendas we are facing today?

    November 21, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  7. GOP Hate America

    good he can send his kids to go die in his silly war games

    November 21, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  8. Emperor Norton

    How many times do Ron Paul supporters have to watch him lose the race to the nomination before they figure out that he's unelectable?

    November 21, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  9. Unenrolled in Massachusetts

    I imagine Newt himself must be laughing. He knows he can't win. My guess is he is running for as long as he can to promote his books and his name so he can charge more for his "Entrepreneur of the Year" awards.

    November 21, 2011 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  10. Roger Ogilivy Thornhill

    Oh, Man! They said it couldn't be done It's so freaking obvious now. How to make Newt Gingrich look good: Palin, Perry, Cain. Good job GOP leadership! (*applause*)(*applause*)(*applause*)

    November 21, 2011 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  11. Bamikoola

    Republican Party in search of a "Best-Commander-in-Chief": "A War-Lord-President?".....??? What War is out there in the offing.....brewing in the GOP coffee-pot.....that American people and the public is yet to know.....?

    November 21, 2011 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  12. PJ

    Romney certainly isn't qualified. I am afraid if he gets in we will have another war with Iran this time. He will cater to big corps just like Cheney did.

    November 21, 2011 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  13. Frank Champ

    More statis quo..More same old, same old...Traveling down that same road to destruction..The system doesn't work, how much more proof is needed.

    November 21, 2011 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  14. Butler

    WHO DO YOU SURVEY? WHERE IS OUR MORALITY AND INTEGRITY – ARE WE REALLY A REFLECTION OF OUR ELECTED OFFICIAL (and visa versa)? This is the same man who (1) as speaker of the house closed the government because he refused to compromise, (2) has no sense of morality as to marital commitments, (3) took ~$1.5 million from the very government corporation that he now wants to close down (and insists he is not a lobbyist), and (4) has a belief that personal financial integrity is for everyone but himself. People, is this the man you really want to represent our country? What have we become?

    November 21, 2011 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  15. Ohio Joe

    Dr. Ron Paul is the only one with a record to back up what he says (for 30yrs.). Look it up, do yourself a favor and check into the true front runner, not these hacks from both parties. The media will never tell you the truth, it doesn't pay well. The country is in the shape it's in because of the lazy my team is better than yours crowd. Be American and do your best to bring our country back to greatness.......... RON PAUL FOR THE LONG HAUL !!!!!!!!

    November 21, 2011 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  16. Pete

    Is that all theygot? Sheesh.....better luck next time republicans

    November 21, 2011 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  17. johnnytfun

    Ron Paul is the only candidate which does not promote the causes and interest of the Illuminati. Of course CNN wants him out of the picture. Who pulls CNN's strings? Americans are going to show these reptilian puppets just how smart the Society thinks we aren't. Ron Paul!!!

    November 21, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  18. Reggie1971

    It really is astonishing the extent to which the transgressions in Newt Gingrich's life are held against him in comparison the far worse behavior of Bill Clinton.

    In any case, most of the comments I read on the board are pure ad hominem. They are devoid of any substance. The personal attacks will be transcended by the debates, where Newt Gingrich would wipe the floor with Barack "where is my college transcript" Obama.

    November 21, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  19. mrability

    ight wingers are are the the true threat to education and a smart usa.

    November 21, 2011 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  20. TuliGirl

    If you look at the demographics of this poll of "Adult Americans", only white people over 50 were polled! ?????

    November 21, 2011 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  21. mrability

    ea Baggers

    November 21, 2011 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  22. It is sad

    I am loving this!!! Obama has to be smiling too.

    November 21, 2011 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  23. mrability

    Tea Baggers is what they polled.

    goofey old white people dressed up in 1800 attire

    November 21, 2011 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  24. Craig Shaver

    Newt's definitely POTUS/CIC material for conservatives. Avoided Nam, but he had the guts to stand firm to a charge card at Tiffany's.

    Why does the GOP give chickenhawks a free ride and mess on real war heroes like George H. W. Bush and John McCain?

    November 21, 2011 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  25. cytwo

    FOX is 'Fair and Balanced,' And CNN 'The Most Trusted Name in News,'! Unless both networks are under the effects of Propofol .. both blatantly ignore the Rise, Poularity, and Emergence of Ron Paul as a candidate with very strong core support among many American people including especially American War Veterans. And its all the other Networks also, we saw the 'half-minute' CBS gave Ron Paul at the last debate, not worth his plane ticket to the event.

    November 21, 2011 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
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