11/16/2011 06:59 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Newt Gingrich Leads In Poll, Thanks To Mitt Romney's Tea Party Problem

A Fox News poll released Wednesday night confirms that the Republican presidential primary campaign is experiencing a Newt Gingrich boomlet. The former House Speaker leads the field at 23 percent, followed closely by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 22 percent.

The numbers, as with all national polls, only matter so much. Voters in Iowa and New Hampshire will have more say in choosing a nominee than anyone else. And 60 percent of respondents say that their vote may change (only 38 percent say it won't). But a dig deeper into findings does provide an interesting window into why Gingrich is surging and Romney is stagnant.

Much of it appears to be Tea Party-driven. According to the poll's crosstabs, 35 percent of self-identified Tea Partiers now support Gingrich, 15 percent back Romney, 20 percent back Herman Cain, 7 percent back Texas Gov. Rick Perry and 8 percent back Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). This is just one demographic, to be sure, but it's the most enthusiastic.

In the same poll, more self-identified Tea Partiers than members of any other group said they would definitely continue to support the candidate they currently back. That number still stands at a low 47 percent with 50 percent saying they may change their vote. But it's not nothing.

What's ironic is that more self-identified Tea Partiers think Romney is more likable than Gingrich: 19 percent to 11 percent. They also think Romney has a better chance of winning against Obama: 30 percent to 26 percent.

But they favor Gingrich on other matters. 78 percent of Tea Party respondents say they believe Gingrich has the integrity to serve effectively as president; 67 percent say Romney has such integrity. 79 percent of Tea Party respondents think Gingrich has the experience to serve effectively as president; 71 percent said the same of Romney.

And then, there is the issue of who to trust with the launch codes. 54 percent of Tea Party respondents said they would trust Gingrich the most with nuclear weapons, compared to just 10 percent for Romney.