These polls dropped last evening. Most concerning to Team Romney? The numbers from the one early state in which Newt isn't ahead:
Newt Gingrich has opened up a double-digit lead over Mitt Romney in three early states and significantly narrowed the gap in New Hampshire, the state that has been the firewall for the former Massachusetts governor’s campaign, according to a set of new polls by CNN and Time magazine. In Florida, a state where Romney’s campaign has put early emphasis, Gingrich is leading Romney by a 2-to-1 margin, according to the poll by CNN/Time/ORC Internatonal. If the election were held today, 48 percent of likely Republican voters in Florida said they would support Gingrich, compared with 25 percent for Romney. The former House speaker also has a 2-to-1 lead in South Carolina, with 43 percent saying they would support Gingrich and 20 percent saying they would support Romney.
Less than half of the voters in each state said they had made up their mind, illustrating the volatility of the race. But with voters starting to make their choices in less than four weeks, Gingrich’s numbers surpass those for Romney’s other would-be challengers, who briefly rose and then fell again. In New Hampshire, the state where Romney has put the greatest emphasis, Gingrich is behind by only 9 points in the CNN poll. Gingrich recently won the endorsement from the Union Leader in Manchester – a paper that doesn’t hesitate to put harshly-worded editorials on the front page -- which could be a factor in the final weeks of the campaign. A number of recent polls have also showed Gingrich opening up a lead here in Iowa, where caucus-goers will jumpstart the nominating process on Jan. 3. In the CNN poll, 33 percent of those polled said they would support Gingrich, compared with 20 percent for Romney.
These numbers are pretty overwhelming. If Newt wins three of four, or runs the table, he could sew this thing up...maybe. The silver lining for Romney, and everyone else chasing Gingrich, is the huge number of undecided voters. Many GOP voters aren't committed, and there's still time for Newt fast fade -- but as I've written previously, a Cain-style implosion is unlikely for a number of reasons. Concerned Romney backers have been urging the campaign to go on offense to blunt or beat back Newtmentum. It looks like they'll get their wish. In addition to Chris Christie's jab last week, two key Romney surrogates are conducting a conference as we speak. The topic? An examination of Gingrich's record. Oh, I'm sure it'll be glowing. From a campaign email sent late last night:
On Thursday, former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu and former Missouri Senator Jim Talent will hold a press conference call to discuss Speaker Newt Gingrich’s record. Details are as follows: Thursday, December 8, 2011. Event: Gov. John Sununu and Sen. Jim Talent to hold a press conference call.
Meanwhile, Newt's killing Mitt with kindness, and tossing out irresistible appeals to the base. Are you ready for Secretary of State John Bolton? If this stuff can't dampen Newtmania among grassroots conservatives, can anything slow him down before January?
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography