The Washington Times - December 8, 2011, 08:57AM

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich holds double-digit leads for the Republican presidential nomination over rival Mitt Romney in the key states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.

And the survey showed that Mr. Gingrich, whose campaign has been surging in recent weeks, also has cut sharply into President Obama’s general election lead in hypothetical matchups in these battleground states.


In Florida, Republican voters chose Mr. Gingrich over Mr. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, by 35 percent to 22 percent. In Ohio, the poll showed Mr. Gingrich leading Mr. Romney 2-to-1, 36 percent to 18 percent. And in Pennsylvania, the former speaker is in the lead with 31 percent, compared with 17 percent for Mr. Romney. No other GOP candidate cracked the 10 percent level in any of the three states.

When GOP voters in these states were given a choice only between Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Romney, Mr. Gingrich won by margins ranging from 18 to 27 percentage points.

“Gingrich certainly has the momentum on his side and is peaking at the right moment, but Romney has the edge in money and organization, which can be important especially if the primary race turns out to be a long, drawn-out affair,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “The suspension of Herman Cain’s campaign is unlikely to hurt Gingrich and might help him vis-a-vis Romney by reducing the number of candidates courting tea party voters.”

Matching Mr. Obama against the top two GOP candidates in these swing states, the poll found Mr. Gingrich has improved his standing against the president.

In Florida, Mr. Romney leads Mr. Obama 45 percent to 42 percent, but Mr. Gingrich trails the president by only 2 percentage points, 46 percent to 44 percent.

In Ohio, Mr. Romney edges the president 43 percent to 42 percent. Mr. Gingrich leads the president by the same margin.

In Pennsylvania, Mr. Obama leads both candidates, beating Mr. Romney 46 percent to 43 percent and Mr. Gingrich 48 percent to 40 percent.

“The president still leads Gingrich in Pennsylvania, but Ohio and Florida are too close to call,” Mr. Brown said. “And Romney runs only slightly better against Obama, diluting his claim that he has the best chance to win.”