Mitt Romney is continuing a precipitous slide in polls across key GOP primary states as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich continues mounting his surge despite a much smaller — and far less costly — campaign operation.
And if news coverage of Saturday’s debate can be trusted, Romney is likely looking at a bigger fall to come. Pundits and reporters slammed him Sunday for his seemingly scripted offer of $10,000 to Texas Gov. Rick Perry if Perry could prove what he was saying about Romney’s book.
Gingrich’s leap over former front-runner Romney in polls extends far beyond the Midwest, where he is the front-runner in the Jan. 3 caucus state of Iowa. The former House speaker has grabbed commanding leads in two other key states: South Carolina and Florida, according to new NBC News-Marist polls.
Gingrich had become the first candidate to pull within double digits of Romney in a New Hampshire poll, this one done by CNN, with Romney holding what most polls show is a 9-point lead, 35-26 percentage edge, according to the Nashua Telegraph.
Conservatives and the tea party are credited with pushing Gingrich ahead of the former Massachusetts governor by nearly 20 points in South Carolina. The victors in the Palmetto State’s primary have captured the GOP nominations since 1980.
Gingrich also has snagged a double-digit lead in the Sunshine State Florida, where the primary ultimately ended up deciding the party’s choice in 2008.
“You can see why the Romney people are getting a little itchy,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of Marist College’s Institute for Public Opinion, referring to the Romney campaign’s recent attacks on Gingrich.
In South Carolina, where the presidential primary will take place on Jan. 21, Gingrich has the support of 42 percent of likely primary voters, including those leaning toward a particular candidate. That’s a 35-point jump since October’s NBC-Marist poll, NBC’s First Read notes.