The Washington Times - December 19, 2011, 12:45AM

The Democratic leaning Public Policy Polling Company released new data on Sunday night showing numbers in Iowa dropping for former Speaker of the House and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

According to the PPP poll, Mr. Gingrich’s campaign poll numbers are dropping “rapidly” and Ron Paul has now taken the lead in Iowa. While Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, is leading the poll at 23 percent, Mr. Gingrich is now at 14 percent. Only former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney barely trails Rep. Paul at 20 percent.

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This drop in this particular poll for Mr. Gingrich is quite precipitous, as the last two weeks show he has gone from 27 percent to 22 percent to 14 percent. PPP also notes there has been a drop in Mr. Gingrich’s personal favorability numbers from +31 (62/31) to +12 (52/40) to now -1 (46/47).

“Negative ads over the last few weeks have really chipped away at Gingrich’s image as being a strong conservative- now only 36% of voters believe that he has ‘strong principles,’ while 43% think he does not.”

Mr. Gingrich has acknowledged that his rivals’ criticisms have taken a toll on his campaign. In the meantime, his opponents are traveling all over the state of Iowa  taking continued jabs at Mr. Gingrich in front of townhalls and on the airwaves.

Former Senator Rick Santorum and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, and Texas Governor Rick Perry are all polling at 10 percent in the PPP poll, while former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson continue to poll in the lower single digits. 

The Des Moines Register, whose editorial page recently endorsed Mitt Romney, described several factors that could seriously hurt Mr. Gingrich’s campaign in Iowa. One such issue is that the Gingrich campaign did not open up a campaign headquarters until this past weekend:

Gingrich’s team is crunched for time to make voter ID calls to find his supporters and then create a strategy to keep them in their camp.

Gingrich was short on cash when other campaigns were buying lists of previous caucusgoers from the Republican Party of Iowa. Romney and Paul have target lists saved from prior presidential runs.

An “energy advantage” can make up for organization deficiencies, strategists said, but final “make the sale” contacts help.

“It’s boots on the ground,” Huckabee said of a successful caucus strategy. “They have to know who’s going to be there on caucus night: They need to list names and phone numbers. If they don’t have (it) at this point, it’s probably too late to get it.”

Although Rep. Paul’s chances of winning Iowa have shot up this past month, many believe the Texas Republican will have a rougher time finding support in South Carolina, but he may very well give Romney a tough run in New Hampshire.

 Drew Ivers Ron Paul campaign spokesman told me on Thursday night in Sioux City, “Well South Carolina is a little tougher, but in New Hampshire the potential is there. We have staff on the ground. We have an organization going [there].”

Mr. Ivers added, “Obviously, it’s Mitt country. There’s no question about that. When I say ‘do well’ I’m not saying wining New Hampshire. I’m saying being competitive in New Hampshire. The way the game is played…the way the politics work, you try to build as you go. So obviously, the first domino affects the second domino.”

“Will it affect enough to come in a strong third (in New Hampshire)? I think that’s a real possibility,” he said.