Newt Gingrich's momentum in the Republican Presidential race is continuing to build: PPP finds him with large leads in both North Carolina and Colorado. It's also looking more and more like the GOP contest is down to a two man race, as Gingrich and Mitt Romney are the only candidates in double digits in either of those states.
In North Carolina Gingrich is at 51% to 14% for Romney, 8% for Michele Bachmann, 7% for Ron Paul, 4% for Rick Perry, 3% for Rick Santorum, 1% for Jon Huntsman, and 0% for Gary Johnson.
In Colorado Gingrich is at 37% to 18% for Romney, 9% for Bachmann, 6% for Paul, 4% for Perry and Santorum, 3% for Huntsman, and 1% for Johnson.
5 weeks ago Gingrich was at 22% in North Carolina, so he's gained 29 points since then. In August Gingrich was at 9% in Colorado, so he's gained 28 points since our last poll there.
Gingrich's wide leads are a reflection of the fact that he's basically winning every group of Republican voters now. For instance he's very strong with the Tea Party, leading Romney 53-10 in NC (with Bachmann at 13%) and leading Romney 42-9 in CO (with Bachmann at 17%) with those voters. But he's winning over moderate voters within the party as well, leading Romney 38-21 with them in North Carolina and 26-22 with them in Colorado. Gingrich's appeal right now is very broad within the Republican electorate.
These polls provide more evidence of a Romney fade. He's down 5 points from 19% a month ago in North Carolina and his net favorability has dropped from +23 (53/30) to +16 (50/34). It's a similar story in Colorado. He's down 4 points from his 22% standing when we last polled there in August, although there at least his favorability numbers have remained unchanged.
Michele Bachmann may be worth keeping an eye on. She hit double digits in the Iowa poll we released last night and she finishes 3rd in both North Carolina and Colorado. Her support in the Tar Heel State has doubled from 4% a month ago to now 8%. She's the second choice of Tea Party voters in both states and with Herman Cain now out of the race she may be in a position to get some momentum in the next month.
As well as Gingrich is doing right now and as poorly as Romney is, there's one data point that suggests things could be flipped on their head at some point moving forward. Gingrich's support in both states is pretty soft- only 38% of his supporters in North Carolina and 36% in Colorado say they're firmly committed to voting for him. And if something happens that causes Gingrich's supporters to jump ship their second choice is...Mitt Romney. In North Carolina 30% of Gingrich voters say that Romney is their back up to 9% for Bachmann and Perry. In Colorado 35% of Gingrich backers say Romney's their second choice to 8% for Perry and 6% for Bachmann.
Over the last year Republicans have gone from one surging dark horse to another, supporting 'anyone but Mitt,' but now as 2011 comes to a close Romney is the next in line. Gingrich is flying high but if that changes Republican voters may end up marrying Romney after dating just about anyone else they could over the course of the last 8 months.
Full results here