Newt Gingrich's big South Carolina primary win last weekend helped wipe away Mitt Romney's double digit lead in Florida, where the two are now neck and neck, a new Quinnipiac University poll founds.
The Jan. 19 - 23 poll found Mitt Romney with 36 percent support, Newt Gingrich with 34 percent, Rick Santorum with 13 percent and Ron Paul with 10 percent. The More than one in three likely Republican voters said they could change their mind before the Jan. 31 primary.
"Florida is essentially a dead heat and a two-man race between Gov. Mitt Romney and Speaker Newt Gingrich entering the last week of the campaign," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Gingrich's South Carolina victory clearly gives him a boost in Florida. The question is whether there is more of that to come, or whether any bump from a previous victory will dissipate as happened to Rick Santorum in New Hampshire after winning Iowa and Romney in South Carolina after taking New Hampshire," Brown added.
Romney was seen by more likely primary voters as best able to handle the economy and most sharing voters' values, and Gingrich as having the knowledge and experience to be president, being a strong leader and better at handling foreign policy.
Gingrich gets 37 percent of men to 33 percent for Romney, while Romney is ahead 38 - 31 among women. Gingrich leads among white evangelical Christians 43 - 30 percent and among those who consider themselves to be tea party supporters 43 - 28 percent. Each makes up roughly a third of primary voters although there is substantial overlap among those two groups.
Romney is viewed more favorably, 71 - 19 percent, than is Gingrich, at 61 - 26 percent. Here again, Gingrich does better among voters polled after the South Carolina victory. Santorum gets a 58 - 13 percent favorability rating, while Paul gets a negative 36 - 40 percent score.
"Newt Gingrich's edge is that he is the candidate with momentum and the one viewed as best on a host of issues and characteristics important to voters. Romney, however, holds the potential trump card that on the question most important to voters - who can best fix the economy - he is seen as the best candidate," said Brown.
The survey includes 254 voters surveyed January 19 - 21, before South Carolina results were announced, with a margin of error of +/- 6.2 percent, and 347 voters surveyed January 22 - 23, after the South Carolina results, with a margin of error of +/- 5.3 percent. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.