Romney leads in Florida poll, Gingrich second

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greats people before speaking at a town hall meeting at the Doubletree Miami Airport hotel as he campaigns in South Florida on September 21, 2011 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Mitt Romney
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigns in Miami, Florida in this September 21, 2011 file photo
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

It is not just Tuesday's New Hampshire primary where Mitt Romney appears to be headed to victory. Voters in Florida appear to be coalescing around Mitt Romney as their choice to take on President Obama in November, according to the latest poll.

The former Massachusetts governor garnered 36 percent support in a poll of likely primary voters in Florida, which holds its primary January 31. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich took second place with 24 percent of the vote, according to a survey released Monday by Quinnipiac University.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, fresh off a surprisingly strong showing in Iowa January 3, came in third, with support of 16 percent of likely Republican primary voters.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul took 10 percent, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry received about 5 percent backing. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has struggled to gain traction anywhere other than New Hampshire, received just 2 percent.

While Romney's lead is fluid, he does have the highest likeability rating of any of his rivals.

More than half--about 54 percent--of those asked said they could still change their mind in the three weeks before casting their ballot. After New Hampshire, voters in South Carolinamake their selection January 21.

Asked if they viewed him favorably or unfavorably, 73 percent said they viewed Romney favorably compared to 14 percent who said unfavorably. Santorum and Gingrich each received 59 percent favorable ratings but Gingrich's negatives were more than three times higher than the less well known Santorum.Gingrich received a 29 percent unfavorable rating, compared to Santorum's 9 percent.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul had higher unfavorable than favorable, receiving just a 34 percent favorability rating to his 47 percent unfavorability rating.

The telephone poll of 560 likely Republican primary voters was conducted January 4-8 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

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    CBSNews.com Deputy Politics Editor Corbett B. Daly is based in Washington. He has worked at Reuters, Thomson Financial News and CBS MarketWatch.

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