A new Insider Advantage / Newsmax poll, taken among registered Florida Republicans (not likely voters) on Sunday, shows Newt Gingrich got a big enough bounce from his South Carolina win to blow him into orbit. While most polls last week showed Mitt Romney with a lead of over 20 points in the Sunshine State, Insider Advantage now shows Gingrich ahead by 8 points:
Newt Gingrich: 34%
Mitt Romney: 26%
Ron Paul: 13%
Rick Santorum: 11%
No opinion: 14%
By way of comparison, a CNN / Time poll concluding January 17, one of the most recent major Florida polls completed before the second South Carolina debate and Gingrich’s victory there, had Romney ahead by 22 points. Also, that poll showed Rick Santorum 10 points ahead of Ron Paul.
Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald points out a couple of caveats to keep in mind about Insider Advantage: it was founded by Matt Towery, who used to work for Gingrich when he was in Congress, and it uses push-button “robocalls” instead of live interviews.
However, robo-polls seem to be working quite well in this electoral season, perhaps because respondents have less patience for long interviews and are more reluctant to discuss politics with a live pollster, while the Internet has made them comfortable with quick automated forms. As for the Towery connection, he’s been critical of Gingrich and dubious about his chances in the 2012 primary, so if he’s carrying pom-poms for his old boss, they are old, faded, and shy a few pieces of tinsel.
Insider Advantage was one of the first polling firms to detect the Gingrich surge in South Carolina. Much more polling will soon be available for comparison, and we’ll have a better idea if history is about to repeat itself.
Another variable is that two more debates will be held before the Florida primary, with the first occurring at the University of South Florida in Tampa at 9:00 PM Eastern time tonight. That will give Gingrich two more appearances in his favorite format. Not long ago, the Romney campaign was making noises that their candidate might skip one or both of the Florida debates… but you don’t hear those noises any more.
Update: It looks like we have a trend, as the second major new Florida poll, from Rasmussen Reports, shows Gingrich with a 9-point lead over Romney in Florida. Rasmussen had Romney up by 22 points less than two weeks ago, but today they have the Florida race looking like this:
Newt Gingrich: 41%
Mitt Romney: 32%
Rick Santorum: 11%
Ron Paul: 8%
The Rasmussen poll was taken on Sunday evening, and used likely Republican voters, as opposed to the registered Republican voters sampled by Insider Advantage.