Newt Gingrich's surge to be the not-Romney candidate has taken root according to the latest PPP poll.
Newt Gingrich has taken the lead in PPP's national polling. He's at 28% to 25% for Herman Cain and 18% for Mitt Romney. The rest of the Republican field is increasingly looking like a bunch of also rans: Rick Perry is at 6%, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul at 5%, Jon Huntsman at 3%, and Gary Johnson and Rick Santorum each at 1%.Compared to a month ago Gingrich is up 13 points, while Cain has dropped by 5 points and Romney has gone down by 4.
What is most interesting about this poll to me is the not-Romney aspect of the race. I knew Newt was on the rise and that part of the result isn't surprising to me. The question on most pundits' minds will be whether Newt has the staying power that Trump, Bachmann, Perry and now perhaps Cain as well, have lacked. The standard viewpoint is that conservative GOP voters are test driving everyone who isn't Romney to be the not-Romney candidate and it's now Newt's turn.
However, what I find most interesting is that Mitt Romney's support has fallen from his traditional low 20's percentage of support to 18%. That to me indicates a real move away from Romney over the last month. While 18% is still top tier at this point, it is a markedly different number from the usual 20% to 24% Romney usually enjoys. While this poll may be an outlier at this point, if it does get support from new polls coming out over the next two weeks, Romney will have to change his laying low strategy.
More importantly, last month the two top not-Romney candidates had a combined support of 45%. This month that number is a combined 53%. Yet over the top three not Romney candidates that number did not move from 59%. It seems that the not-Romney support may be coalescing around two candidates Cain and Gingrich. That makes Romney's path more difficult, especially given that the top two not Romney candidates have over half the base behind them and Romney has lost ground.
Meanwhile there is the obvious headline that Newt may indeed be in the lead now. That opens him up to the scrutiny that others have 'enjoyed' heretofore. But I think Newt may have stumbled onto the winning formula with his debate style. He's focused outward onto the media and the president rather than on his counter-parts. He's also able to give specifics and can run circles around someone who disagrees with him, like the CBS moderator Pelley.
That does two things for Gingrich. It makes him seem more friendly, more reasonable and still more informed than anyone else on the stage, Romney included. It also allows him space to project himself as the tabula rasa that Obama did for himself in 2008. People can project on Newt their own image of a candidate that Obama no longer has the luxury of doing in 2012 as he did in 2008.