PPP's first post-South Carolina poll in Florida finds Newt Gingrich with a small lead. He's at 38% to 33% for Mitt Romney, 13% for Rick Santorum, and 10% for Ron Paul.
Gingrich has gained 12 points since a PPP poll conducted in Florida a week ago. Romney has dropped 8 points. Paul and Santorum have pretty much remained in place. Their favorability numbers show similar trendlines. Gingrich's has increased 8 points from +15 (51/36) to +23 (57/34). Meanwhile Romney's has declined 13 points from +44 (68/24) to +31 (61/30).
Here's the good news for Gingrich in this poll:
1) His supporters are more committed than Romney's. 78% of his voters say they'll definitely vote for him compared to 73% for Romney, and among folks whose minds are completely made up he leads by 9 points at 45-36.
2) If Rick Santorum drops out between now and next Tuesday, Gingrich will be the beneficiary. His voters prefer Gingrich over Romney 50-23, and in a field where he's no longer a candidate Newt's lead expands to 43-36.
3) Voters see him as better positioned ideologically than Romney. 52% think his views are 'about right' compared to 42% for Romney. Only 14% of voters think he's 'too liberal' compared to 25% for Romney.
4) Newt is drawing out new voters. With the 11% of the electorate that didn't vote in the 2008 primary, he leads 40-30. Meanwhile Romney is having trouble holding onto the folks who voted for him in 2008. 37% are supporting someone else this time, with 19% of them moving toward Gingrich. This was a big problem for Romney in Iowa as well- if he could just hold onto the folks who supported him last time he'd be winning easily. But he doesn't inspire a passionate enough following to keep folks in the fold.
5) Newt's continuing to do well with all the groups he dominated with in South Carolina. He's up 42-23 with Evangelicals, 46-20 with Tea Partiers (Mitt's actually in 3rd with them), 42-28 with men, and 44-23 with voters describing themselves as 'very conservative,' which is the largest ideological group in the Florida electorate.
Here's the good news for Romney in this poll:
1) He has a lead banked. 16% of the folks we polled said they already voted, and they support Romney by a 43-40 margin.
2) He's still more popular than Newt with a 61% favorability rating to Gingrich's 57%. There are a significant number of voters who like Mitt but aren't currently planning to vote for him- if Gingrich has an Iowa style implosion in the next 8 days there are plenty of folks who are going to be comfortable moving toward him.
3) Voters see Romney as having stronger values than Gingrich by a 45-24 margin and having stronger principles by a 37-31 spread. Taken together those questions suggest that voters think Romney's more trustworthy than Newt, and that could result in folks moving toward him in the closing stretch if the closing week advertising barrage increases their doubts about Gingrich.
4) It might be bad news for Romney that this is good news, but he's running even with Gingrich on the electability metric in Florida. 37% of voters think each would be the strongest candidate against Barack Obama. Romney at least won't get blown out among voters who list electability as their top concern the way he did in South Carolina...but at the same time this used to be one of his greatest strengths.
Two other observations:
1) We asked a question about both Romney and Gingrich pertaining to the general election, and the results are telling. 50% of primary voters say they would enthusiastically support Gingrich, while only 46% say the same for Romney. But at the same time 15% of primary voters say they would not vote for Gingrich in the general election, while only 9% say that about Romney. GOP voters might be more excited about Gingrich than Romney...but Romney would be the stronger candidate against Barack Obama, with most people willing to unify around him whether they love him or not. Voters may need to decide just how badly they want to win in the fall.
2) This is more an observation about the culture of Florida than something terribly pertinent to the GOP nomination contest, but voters in the state who consider themselves southerners support Gingrich 43-28, while those who do not support Romney 37-33. Voters are almost evenly divided on the issue- 48% identify as Southern, while 50% do not.
Full results here