POLITICS

Poll: Dramatic drop in Gingrich support in Iowa

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Byron York

DES MOINES -- A new survey from pollster Scott Rasmussen shows support for Newt Gingrich in Iowa has fallen sharply in recent days.  The poll shows the former House speaker with the support of 20 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers -- down from 32 percent in the last Rasmussen survey released November 15.

Gingrich has now fallen into second place in the Iowa race, behind Mitt Romney, who is at 23 percent, up from 19 percent in the last Rasmussen survey.

The complete poll results are: Romney, 23 percent; Gingrich 20 percent; Ron Paul, 18 percent; Rick Perry 10 percent; Michele Bachmann, 9 percent; Rick Santorum, 6 percent; and Jon Huntsman, 5 percent.  Ten percent of likely caucus-goers said they support some other candidate or are not sure how they will vote.

In the new survey, every candidate but Gingrich gained support in the last few weeks. The biggest gainers were Romney, up four points; Paul, up eight points; and Perry, up four points.  Michele Bachmann climbed three points, as did Jon Huntsman, who has been to Iowa a grand total of one time in the campaign.

Gingrich, on the other hand, fell 12 points.

"This is the fifth consecutive monthly poll with a new leader," Rasmussen says in an email.  "It was Bachmann in August, then Perry, Cain, and Gingrich.  Amidst all the volatility, Romney's numbers have held steady each month, and Ron Paul has been in double digits each month."

Rasmussen warns that the race remains volatile, with only 40 percent of likely caucus-goers sure of how they will vote.

In mostly private conversations, well-connected Iowa Republicans say they have sensed a drop-off in support for Gingrich in the last few days.  (See Signs of Gingrich slipping in Iowa?) "People are saying OK, let's reassess this," one insider says of voter opinion on Gingrich. "Is this really a decision we want to make?  What I'm hearing is thinking about the general election and the unpredictable nature of him as our nominee.  I don't have any empirical data to back it up, but it's just a feeling I've gotten in the last 24 hours."

Now, there is that empirical data.

Gingrich has been the target of a barrage of attack ads on Iowa television and radio, particularly from Paul, Romney, and Perry.  The consensus among Iowa GOP insiders is that those ads are beginning to take a toll.  "That stuff has an impact, where people are at least going to pause" in their enthusiasm for Gingrich, says Bob vander Plaats, an influential Iowa social conservative leader.

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