How Big Is Romney's Florida Lead?
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has a 43 - 29 percent lead over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich among Republican likely voters in Florida, the nation's first big-state presidential primary, according to Quinnipiac University poll released today. Only 7 percent are undecided, but 24 percent say they might change their mind by tomorrow's election. In today's survey, self-described conservatives go to Romney 40 - 31 percent. He gets 38 percent of white evangelical Christians to Gingrich's 33 percent and wins 40 percent of Tea Party members to Gingrich's 35 percent. Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum each have 11 percent of likely primary voters today.
If Romney beats Newt among self-described conservatives and Tea Partiers, that result could sound the death knell of the Gingrich campaign. However, two other polls show the race much closer -- and possibly tightening. First, PPP's numbers, which reflect a single-digit Romney edge, largely bolstered by moderates and women:
Mitt Romney leads with 39% to 32% for Newt Gingrich with Rick Santorum at 14% and Ron Paul at 11%. Romney and Santorum are both down a single point from Saturday's polling while Paul has gained 2 points and Gingrich has stayed in place. Almost Romney's entire lead in Florida is coming from moderate voters. He has a 58-15 lead over Gingrich with them and only a 1 point advantage with the rest of the electorate. Other groups that continue to be a particular source of strength for Romney are seniors (48-32) and women (43-30).
The bad news for Team Newt? A lot of Florida Republicans voted early (as many as 600,000 ballots have already been cast down here), and a large bulk of those tallies went to Romney:
Romney continues to have a large lead in the bank in Florida. 34% of our respondents said they'd already voted and with those folks he has a 45-33 lead. That puts Gingrich in a position where he'd have to not only win the election day vote, but win it by 6 or 7 points to upset Romney in the state. The kind of reversal necessary to make that happen seems unlikely to occur in the next 48 hours.
The most promising data for Newt backers comes via Insider Advantage. Gingrich's camp blasted out this poll in a press email earlier today:
A new InsiderAdvantage poll conducted Sunday night of likely Republican voters in the state of Florida shows a significant surge for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The poll has former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leading with 36 percent of voters, followed by Gingrich at 31 percent. "The race will be tighter than expected," Matt Towery, chief pollster of InsiderAdvantage [said]. "The trend is favoring Gingrich," Towery said, noting that while Romney's lead was still outside the margin of error of 3.8 percent, "It's not by much."