WASHINGTON -- A new poll from CNN/ORC International confirms that Newt Gingrich has surged in Florida, but unlike some of the other polls released earlier in the week, it finds the former speaker now running neck and neck with Mitt Romney and suggests that Gingrich's Florida tide may be ebbing.
The latest CNN survey, conducted entirely after Gingrich's victory in South Carolina on Saturday using live interviewers, shows likely Republican primary voters in Florida divided between Romney (at 36 percent) and Gingrich (34 percent), with Rick Santorum and Ron Paul running far behind (with 11 percent and 9 percent respectively) and 7 percent undecided.
Although the full CNN/ORC sample is small -- just 369 likely Republican primary voters -- additional subgroup data shows that on Sunday night, Gingrich led by six percentage points (38 to 32 percent), but on Monday and Tuesday nights, Romney led by nine percentage points (38 to 29 percent). CNN's analysts conclude that Gingrich's momentum "appears to be quickly cooling off" after an initial boost following his victory on Saturday.
Those findings paint a somewhat different picture of the Florida trend than the Quinnipiac University poll released earlier on Wednesday, which showed Gingrich running six points ahead (40 to 34 percent) on interviews conducted after the South Carolina primary on Sunday and Monday.
Another live interviewer survey conducted on Monday and Tuesday nights by the American Research Group shows Romney leading by seven points (41 to 34 percent). Taken together with the results of a series of automated, recorded-voice surveys conducted earlier in the week, these results suggest that although Gingrich has clearly surged following the South Carolina primary, Romney may have rebounded over the last 48 hours.
Combining data from all the available public polls and calculating an aggregated trend line, as we do on the HuffPost Pollster chart shown below, shows a razor-thin margin, with Gingrich at 35.5 percent and Romney at 33.7 percent.
Whether the differences among the polls this week are based on real shifts among the voters or artifacts of differences in polling methodology, the wide variation in recent results is further evidence of the continuing volatility roiling the Republican presidential race. Like the Quinnipiac University survey released earlier, the CNN/ORC found about a third of likely voters saying they might still change their minds about the candidate they are supporting (25 percent) or are completely undecided (7 percent).
So don't be surprised if the polling snapshot at the end of the week looks different than it does right now.
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