Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is back in the mix in the Republican presidential race after several polls put him in the top tier of candidates vying to take the White House following a series of strong debate performances.
A Public Policy Polling survey released Monday showed Gingrich taking the lead at 28 percent, with businessman Herman Cain at 25 percent and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 18 percent. The rest of the Republican field is in single digits, but notable in the survey of 576 Republican primary voters is Gingrich's steep rise by 13 points in one month. The margin of error in the poll was 4.1 percent.
A Bloomberg News poll of likely Iowa caucuses participants shows Gingrich in a virtual four-way tie at 17 percent, compared to Cain at 20 percent, Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 19 percent and Romney at 18 percent.
The caucuses -- less than two months away -- are anyone's game at this point, especially since the poll, taken Nov. 10-12, with a margin of error of 4.4 percent, reveals that 60 percent of likely caucus-goers could change their minds.
In the poll, economic issues like jobs, taxes and government spending are driving 71 percent of voter sentiment.
And a new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Gingrich's favorability rising among a random sample of 1,018 adults nationally. He now exceeds Cain and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Gingrich attributed his rise in part to voters weighing each of the other candidates and then returning to his track record in Washington.
"There's been a series of people who've sort of auditioned for being the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney," Gingrich said.
"Now we're in a situation where to some extent people are looking at Newt Gingrich and having to decide do they like the solutions that I'm offering. Do they like my own track record as speaker, with welfare reform, balanced budgets, first tax cuts in 16 years, bringing unemployment down to 2 percent?" Gingrich asked.
Whereas the anti-Washington sentiment running its course in the nation may do no favors for the former speaker, Gingrich said he has the advantage of not having been in Washington for the past 12 years.
"I may have the best of both worlds because while I served in Congress, and was speaker of the House, I did take the last 12 years off to run four small businesses, write books and make speeches, and so you can look at that say, you know, he understands the private sector," he said.
"And I think that allows me to combine experience with an outsider's viewpoint. That allows me to approach things like Washington probably very, very different than most traditional politicians but at the same time with a lot more knowledge than somebody's who's never served in Washington," Gingrich added.
The rise in polling has also been matched by a rise in fundraising. Whereas, Gingrich has been -- and still is -- in debt for much of the race, he has reported raising more than $3 million so far in the fourth quarter, which began Oct. 1.
That puts him well ahead of the $800,000 the campaign raised in the third quarter, and while he still has about $1.2 million in debt, he credits the Internet with helping him get outside usual fundraising channels and get donations directly from average voters.
The money is part of his survival. Gingrich will need to do well in Iowa to go on to the next contest -- New Hampshire, one week later.
Aides said he plans to open three offices in The Hawkeye State as early as this week and will have a new team of aides to help there, where he will spend considerable time in the next seven weeks before the vote.
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