In McClatchy-Marist poll, Gingrich surges past Cain into second place

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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The second poll released Friday which finds former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the top tier of Republican presidential candidates also shows him leading businessman Herman Cain and finishing a close second to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

The national McClatchy–Marist poll was conducted from November 8 through November 10, a period that included the continuing saga of sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain and the CNBC Republican Debate. Gingrich won the support of 19 percent of those surveyed. He is just 4 points behind Romney’s 23 percent and ahead of Herman Cain’s 17 percent. Ron Paul rounds out the candidates in double digits with 10 percent of the vote.

Gingrich now polls more support from tea partiers than any other candidate, with 28 percent of that group saying they would vote for him if their primaries or caucuses were held today. Twenty-two percent say they would vote for Cain.

But with less than two months to go before the first nominating contest, voters have yet to break firmly in any one candidate’s direction. Just 30 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they strongly support their choice, while another 28 percent said they could still vote differently. Another 42 percent say they somewhat support their candidate, suggesting that there is room for maneuvering.

Gingrich voters, however, are more committed than supporters of Romney or Cain. Fully 43 percent of his supporters say they strongly support the former speaker, compared to just 31 percent for Cain and 30 percent for Romney.

Recent polls have suggested that Gingrich would likely be the beneficiary of a Cain withdrawal, but it appears too early to count Cain out. Nearly half — 48 percent — of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents believe that accusations of sexual harassment against Cain are not based on real events. Sixty-nine percent say they don’t think he should drop out of the race, 29 percent who believe he did nothing wrong, and just 11 percent believe he did anything illegal.

The poll is based on telephone interviews with 1,026 voters nationwide, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.0 percentage points.

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