Gingrich surges in Florida, polls say

While Mitt Romney’s organizational and cash advantage in the massive, expensive-to-campaign-in state of Florida should not be underestimated, momentum matters too – and a pair of fresh polls shows that Newt Gingrich’s South Carolina surge seems to be continuing in the Sunshine State.

Public Policy Polling’s new survey, out Monday, had the former House speaker leading Romney 38 percent to 33 percent. Newt was keeping together the Tea Party-evangelical coalition he got in South Carolina, according to poll’s crosstabs. PPP surveyed (by touch-tone telephone polling) 921 likely Republican primary voters in Florida on Jan. 22 and 23, immediately after Saturday’s South Carolina primary and before the Monday NBC News/National Journal debate; the error margin on the results is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

And the latest survey from Rasmussen Reports out Monday found that Romney’s 22-point Florida lead of two weeks ago had melted away. It found Gingrich with support of 41 percent of likely GOP voters, and Romney at 32 percent. Rick Santorum was running third with 11 percent, while Texas Rep. Ron Paul was at eight percent.

The poll of 751 likely voters was done on Jan. 22, when Gingrich’s victory the day before in SC was receiving saturation coverage. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage.

Of course, you don’t really need a poll report to feel the momentum shift in the Republican presidential race. In Monday night’s debate, Romney tore after Gingrich’s integrity, blasting his tenure as House Speaker and in particular his post-congressional career, when he advised a series of companies such as mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Gingrich has been “an influence peddler in Washington” Romney said repeatedly. He also reminded viewers of the national televised debate that Gingrich “resigned in disgrace” after an ethics case against him and dwindling support for re-election to the top leadership post from fellow House Republicans.

 Meanwhile, surrogates for Romney keep pounding Gingrich in daily press conference calls as an erratic, unstable leader of the House.