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Gingrich leads by 9 points in national GOP poll

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 25: Rep. David Rivera (R-FL) (L) claps as Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich waves during a campaign event billed as a Latin American Policy Speech at Florida International University on January 25, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Newt Gingrich campaigns for votes in Florida before the January 31, primary. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich holds a 9-point lead over his GOP rival Mitt Romney among Republican voters nationwide, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

The new survey comes five days ahead of the Florida Republican primary, where polls suggest Romney has the edge. Victory in Florida could give either Romney or Gingrich the momentum they need to pull ahead as the frontrunner.

Gingrich won 37 percent support in the new poll, while Romney earned 28 percent. Former Sen. Rick Santorum garnered 18 percent support while Rep. Ron Paul won 12 percent. The poll was conducted January 22-24, right after Gingrich's surprise victory in the South Carolina primary.

While he bests Romney among Republicans, voters overall have reservations about Gingrich. As many as 48 percent of Americans say they have negative feelings about the former House speaker, compared to 36 percent who say that about Romney and 39 percent for President Obama.

Mr. Obama beats both candidates in head-to-head match ups in the poll but performs more strongly against Gingrich. Against Romney, the president wins 49 percent to 43 percent, while against Gingrich he wins 55 percent to 37 percent.

Against a generic, unnamed Republican, Mr. Obama wins 47 percent to 42 percent.