Exactly three weeks until the first Republican presidential nominating contest in Iowa, front-runners Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney have two different challenges, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Romney faces a challenge with the Republican primary electorate, trailing Gingrich nationally by 17 percentage points as nearly two-thirds of Republicans view him as either liberal or moderate.
Gingrich, meanwhile, faces a challenge with the general electorate, as half of all voters say they wouldn’t vote for him in November, and as he trails President Barack Obama by more than 10 percentage points in a hypothetical contest -- compared with Romney’s two-point deficit versus the Democratic incumbent.
The latest USA Today/Gallup poll contains better general election news for both Gingrich and Romney, showing the leading GOP contenders tracking ahead of President Obama in a string of 12 crucial swing states:
In swing states, Obama trails former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney among registered voters by 5 points, 43% vs. 48%, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich by 3, 45% vs. 48%. That's a bit worse than the president fares nationwide, where he leads Gingrich 50%-44% and edges Romney 47%-46%.
The same survey indicates that Republicans have almost entirely closed the partisan gap that had opened up between themselves and Democrats in 2008. Couple that data with President Obama's dismal re-elect numbers, and it would seem the GOP could dominate in 2012. But that's not the case, a sobering reality that's due in large measure to a profoundly flawed presidential field. As they say, "it is what it is." In the short term, everyone's focus is on how said field will perform here in Iowa, and yesterday's PPP results suggest Newtmania may be waning, creating an opening for Ron Paul:
There has been some major movement in the Republican Presidential race in Iowa over the last week, with what was a 9 point lead for Newt Gingrich now all the way down to a single point. Gingrich is at 22% to 21% for Paul with Mitt Romney at 16%, Michele Bachmann at 11%, Rick Perry at 9%, Rick Santorum at 8%, Jon Huntsman at 5%, and Gary Johnson at 1%. Gingrich has dropped 5 points in the last week and he's also seen a significant decline in his favorability numbers. Last week he was at +31 (62/31) and he's now dropped 19 points to +12 (52/40). The attacks on him appear to be taking a heavy toll- his support with Tea Party voters has declined from 35% to 24%.
Nate Silver's early projection aligns fairly closely with PPP's numbers, though he's quick to caution that the race is extremely fluid. Many voters remain undecided. Anecdotally, based on my conversations with Iowans in Sioux City over the last two days, indecision reigns. A few voters I chatted with have made up their minds, but most either aren't paying enough attention to have picked a candidate, or are struggling to settle on a final selection. Political ads are a regular feature on Iowa television, although I wouldn't say they've reached saturation levels. The spots I've seen so far include two Romney ads, the Ron Paul/F-150 spot, and Rick Perry's "faith" commercial. Parting thought: Don't think Ron Paul's playing to win? Brutal:
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