PPP’s national poll released yesterday found Newt Gingrich leading the Republican field and our numbers in California over the weekend back that up: Gingrich is on top there with 33% to 23% for Mitt Romney, 22% for Herman Cain, 6% for Rick Perry, 5% for Ron Paul, 3% for Michele Bachmann, 2% for Gary Johnson, and 1% each for Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum.
This is only our second time polling California all year and the first was in late January, more than 9 months ago and before we were even including Cain in our polling. But comparing the 2 polls still says something about the state of the race. In January Romney was at 22% and here in November…he’s still at 22%. Meanwhile Gingrich has nearly doubled his support from 18% early in the year to his current 33% standing. Gingrich is surging while Romney just sort of stays in place.
Of course, the race will be over prior to the California primary election which will be held in June of next year. And, President Obama dominates in the state.
But, should the GOP race linger, Gingrich would have the edge.
One thing the California numbers really point to is that if Cain’s support continues declining Gingrich has the potential to benefit in a major way. Among Cain voters 42% say Gingrich would be their second choice compared to 14% for Bachmann, 12% for Romney, and only 8% for Perry. Cain voters are fond of Gingrich, giving him a 60/30 favorability rating. Meanwhile they’re not too keen on either Romney (30/56) or Perry (32/54). Neither of those guys is very well positioned to benefit if the bottom falls out on Cain.
For all that there’s reason to think Gingrich’s stay at the top could be short lived. Only 38% of his supporters say that they’re firmly committed to him compared to 53% for Cain and 52% for Romney, his fellow front runners. If the knives come out for Newt now that he’s looking like a serious contender he doesn’t exactly have a strong base of support to fall back on- what he has right now is inch deep support that could disappear quickly if things stop going well.