GRINNELL, IOWA—That sure didn't last long. The Newt Gingrich boomlet appeared to have at least a bit more staying power than the month-long GOP love affairs with Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain. Instead, it might already be over. A new survey from Public Policy Polling puts Gingrich dead even with Ron Paul in Iowa, a crucial state that Gingrich will need to win if he hopes to clinch his party's nomination.
Gingrich notches just 22 percent support in the poll, with Ron Paul in second place at 21 percent. The survey, conducted between December 11 and December 13, encompasses the days immediately following the last GOP debate. Gingrich's likability plummeted during that time. When PPP polled Iowans the previous week, the former speaker had a net favorability of 31 percent; that's now dropped to just a 12 percent margin, with 52 percent of caucus voters having warm feelings for Gingrich and another 40 percent having negative views. Mitt Romney placed third in the poll with 16 percent, followed by Michele Bachmann with 11 percent, Rick Perry at 9 percent, Rick Santorum with 8 percent, and Jon Huntsman posting a surprising 5 percent after he hasn't campaigned in Iowa and was excluded from the debate there this past weekend.
It should be said that this is one poll that could just be an outlier. Gingrich maintained a solid lead in the University of Iowa's poll released yesterday, showing 30 percent support to Romney's 20 percent. But PPP is typically one of the more reliable pollsters, and its latest numbers reflect some of the fundamentals of the campaign. Gingrich has relied solely on earned media events such as the debates, with no real organizational or advertising presence. In contrast, Paul has built a fierce Iowa campaign infrastructure, collecting voters' names and drawing massive rallies. When caucus night rolls around, Paul's volunteers will be among the few campaigns making sure their supporters actually show up to vote at the necessary time. It's not wholly typical, though, as Paul is largely bypassing a traditional GOP base group—evangelicals—in favor of drumming up support among college students, a group that may be discounted in many polling models of "likely caucus voters." In PPP's numbers, Paul nearly doubled Gingrich's support among people under the age of 45.
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