Gingrich loses ground against Obama in swing states, survey finds

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, speaks to media during a news conference outside the Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012, in Lutz, Fla.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke
Gingrich: On big issues, Romney is a liberal
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's aggressive campaign style may have given him a boost among Republican voters, but a new poll of swing state voters suggests it will hurt him in a general election.

While Mitt Romney virtually ties President Obama in a head-to-head match up in 12 key battleground states, the president has opened a wide lead over Gingrich, a new USA Today/ Gallup survey finds. In early December, according to Gallup, Gingrich was ahead of Mr. Obama by three points in swing states.

The poll surveyed registered voters from January 24-28 in 12 states that will be critical in the 2012 election: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The poll finds that in those states, Romney leads the president by just one (statistically insignificant) point, 48 percent to 47 percent. The president leads Gingrich, meanwhile, by 14 points -- 54 percent to 40 percent.

Mr. Obama also bests Rep. Ron Paul and former Sen. Rick Santorum, though those two candidates perform better against the president than Gingrich: The president leads Santorum 51 percent to 44 percent, while he leads against Paul 50 percent to 43 percent.

In spite of Romney's better performance against Mr. Obama, the new Gallup/USA Today survey shows that Gingrich and Romney are essentially tied among Republican voters nationally, with Gingrich winning 28 percent support and Romney winning 26 percent.

Gingrich has managed to stay in the race -- with a surprise victory in the South Carolina primary -- by running a tough campaign against Romney and promising to be tougher that his rival against Mr. Obama. In response to a voter's question earlier this month about how he would bloody the president's nose, so to speak, Gingrich said, "I don't want to bloody his nose, I want to knock him out."

Republicans are certainly ready to see Mr. Obama out of office: The Gallup/USA Today survey shows that 62 percent of Republicans in the 12 swing states are either "extremely" or "very" excited about this year's presidential election, compared to 54 percent of Democrats.

Both Romney and Gingrich have launched aggressive attacks against one another in recent days, with Romney charging that Gingrich hasn't come off as "presidential."

Gingrich "is not revealing himself to be the kind of person I think he would want to be seen in this race for president, because fundamentally, we look for qualities in a president, but we don't look for whining and excuses," Romney said in an interview Sunday night with CBS News political director John Dickerson.