Newt Gingrich faces challenges as he launches 2012 bid, polls show

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As Newt Gingrich officially launches a presidential bid today, an examination of his ratings in CBS News polls reveals some challenges to his candidacy.

A recent CBS News/New York Times Poll, conducted April 15-20, finds that while Republicans hold positive opinions of the former speaker of the House, they are not especially enthusiastic about his candidacy.

When Republican voters in the poll were asked if they felt enthusiastic about any of the potential presidential candidates, just 5 percent volunteered Newt Gingrich, trailing Mitt Romney (9 percent), Mike Huckabee (8 percent), and Donald Trump (7 percent). But at this early stage in the campaign, most Republican voters aren't particularly excited about anyone - 56 percent were not enthusiastic about any of the potential candidates. (Check out the full poll here)

Gingrich, however, gets mainly favorable ratings from those in his own party. The same poll found 42 percent of Republican voters had a favorable opinion of the former House speaker - more than twice as many as viewed him unfavorably (20 percent). Another 37 percent of Republican voters did not have an opinion of him.

Gingrich's favorable rating matches that of likely Republican rival Mitt Romney (42 percent) but is lower than Mike Huckabee's (54 percent) and Sarah Palin's (51 percent).

Views of Gingrich are more negative among the electorate as a whole. The poll found just 23 percent of registered voters nationwide viewed him positively, and more - 37 percent - had an unfavorable opinion of him. About four in 10 did not offer an opinion.

Throughout the mid-1990s, when Gingrich served as speaker of the House, he received mostly negative ratings from the American public according to CBS News Polls. Gingrich's highest approval rating as speaker was 39 percent, reached in the spring and summer of 1995. His lowest rating came in November 1995 on the heels of the federal government shutdown, when only 27 percent of Americans approved of the job Gingrich was doing as speaker; 59 percent disapproved.

Still, it is relatively early in the presidential campaign. In the spring of 2007, Rudy Giuliani led the pack of Republican candidates in most national polls, but the former New York City mayor did not win a single presidential primary or caucus.

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