With less than a month before the Iowa caucus, GOP presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has surged into the lead, but Texas Rep. Ron Paul is the only Republican candidate who could best President Obama, a new Iowa poll says.
According to the latest NBC/Marist poll, Gingrich is the first choice among 26 percent of Republican caucus-goers, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 18 percent and Paul with 17 percent.
The poll represents a dramatic shift in the race. In October, Romney led the field in Iowa with 26 percent, while Gingrich only received a paltry 5 percent of the vote.
With Herman Cain’s announcement on Saturday that he would suspend his campaign, the NBC/Marist poll predicted that Gingrich’s support will increase to to 28 percent, while Romney and Paul tie at 19 percent.
“As the roller coaster picks up speed in the month leading up to the Iowa caucus, Newt Gingrich has moved into the lead car,” said Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, in a statement. “Hold on tight for any further twists and turns.”
However, the poll also says Paul is the candidate best suited to face Obama in an election.
Against Paul, 42 percent of registered voters in Iowa support Obama and the same number — 43 percent — support Paul. Paul’s popularity among independents could be a crucial advantage. Paul leads Obama 42 percent to 35 percent among independent voters, according to the poll, and he also attracts 15% of Iowa’s Democrats. Not to mention that 16 percent of voters were undecided.
Against the rest of the field, Obama wins a hypothetical race handily.
Obama leads Gingrich by a 10-point spread in a hypothetical contest, garnering 47 percent of the vote to Gingrich’s 37 percent, with 16 percent undecided.
In a matchup against Romney, the president has a seven point lead: 46 percent to Romney’s 39 percent.