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. Brad

    As an idependent, I will never vote for Newt. He is so disconnected with the majority of people, and the way he thinks is a huge slap in the face of the people who struggle to pay bills, who pray for somone who cares about people in general and not just the rich donors.

    November 21, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  2. dorothy

    "Republicans consider the former House Speaker the most qualified GOP candidate to be Commander-in-Chief".

    Oh, I'm sorry, could I change my vote? You said "Chief", I thought you said "Cheat".

    November 21, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  3. Just say no to Flipper

    Great news. Anybody but Flipper, who Karl Rove is trying to ram down our throats.

    November 21, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  4. Bennyfranklin

    IF that poll were true, then the American people would have to be dumber then dirt and will be in alleyways giving HJs for wooden nickels by the end of 2012 if not before. BUT because EVERYONE KNOWS how jaded mainstream media is, I know my American Brothers and Sisters are NOT that foolish.

    November 21, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  5. Barry

    It will be legendary miracle if any Republican becomes president after what they've said and done. Newt's hand in influencing the bogus wars running America's debt through the roof is just 1 of many things that will completely sink him.

    The only reason I could see someone voting for him is that his name makes him sound like a clown.

    November 21, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  6. Alan

    I'm voting for the liberals worst nightmare................Mitt Romney! They no Obuma hasn't got a chance with this guy in the race, his good looks alone with get him elected.

    November 21, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  7. GA Field - Iowa

    All for him. Just wonder if he can beat Obama??

    November 21, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  8. Patricia Williams

    I dont know if this is a win-win or a lose-lose....probably more like a win-lose, lose-win. If
    Newt wins the nomination Obama wins the election which means the GOP looses. If Perry looses
    he goes back to Texas and Texas looses because we have to continue putting up with him.
    On the other hand if Newt looses Romney or Paul might win. If any of these win the country
    looses. What a mess. I think I'll stick to card peep and turn with jokers, deuces,
    and nines wild on aces, straight, flushes and full houses.

    November 21, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  9. Jariv

    Well, if he is the nominee the GOP is done. I might just vote for Obama if Gingrich becomes the nominee. That's what is wrong with America. He is not the person that should represent America. A man who has had issues personally and politically and yet he can become President ? It makes me fell so worried and defeated if he becomes the nominee.

    November 21, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  10. rick h

    As the old adage goes: you can tell when he is lying; his lips are moving..

    He is the guy that ripped on the fannies then took their money so he would stop...he is everything that is wrong with Congress. Ron Paul would be better.

    November 21, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  11. joet

    I'm confused, was that Commander in Chief or Philanderer in Chief.

    November 21, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  12. Doug

    "She turned me into a Newt........I got better......."

    November 21, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  13. Fielding Mellish

    Phony intellectual Newt could not even gain tenure as a professor at West Georgia College. What a blowhard...

    November 21, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  14. George

    Newt is the MAN!! Who would ever vote for Obama again would have to have his head examined.

    November 21, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  15. Libertas Maximus

    WOW! These guys really just keep digging a deeper hole. Polls in Iowa show Newt in fourth or fifth and "Herman the seducer Cain" with Ron the lover of Liberty on top. What are these propagandists talking about. It's so transparent. LMAO

    November 21, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  16. Eddie

    People, it's time to forget Fox, and forget Rupert, and put our country first.

    November 21, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  17. mike

    Newt is an amphibous worm

    November 21, 2011 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  18. JP23

    Newt is the most likely to seize power and end democracy as we know it. He tried to end the two party system as speaker in the 90's. He is too a dangerous a person to be in charge of anything, let alone the US. And remember, he was forced to resign?

    Listen to what he has been saying; bring back child labor and rhetoric not heard since the '60 regarding the "Occupy" 99%ers.

    Advice to the GOP.. pass on Newt and move on to the next candidate. How about Huntsman? He's the only electable one in the bunch.

    November 21, 2011 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  19. Jeffrey G

    Someone remind me, quick: the GOP is a serious political party, right? They have a plan for leading America, right? Because it looks like a clown college to me.

    November 21, 2011 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  20. Phil in KC

    So the Republicans' first choice is a philanderer who served his wife divorce papers while she in a hospital bed with cancer, was censored as Speaker of the House and ultimately had to resign his position due to his malfeasance. Some moral majority.

    November 21, 2011 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  21. Ben

    If this guy can legitimately run for President, then I want Anthony Weiner to run for NYC Mayor.

    November 21, 2011 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  22. bitsinmotion

    Newt said he had "other things to do" than serve in Vietnam. He and his wife had a baby precisely nine months after it was announced that married men without children would become eligible for the draft. He is a coward and a chicken-hawk.

    November 21, 2011 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  23. klarg

    No one with the moral turpitude displayed by Newton Gingrich has any business leading the nation or its armed forces.

    November 21, 2011 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  24. Craig from Pa.

    He's just the flavor of the week at this point!

    November 21, 2011 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  25. ProperVillain

    Wow, I mean, wow. This has got to be the dumbest country in the world where a simpleton swindler like Gingrich is ahead in the polls. This just makes me sad and hopeless for this country.

    November 21, 2011 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
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