The Post-ABC News poll shows Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich tied for first nationally with 30 percent, Ron Paul at 15 percent, and everyone else in single digits. I start with the premise that polling in Iowa and New Hampshire is much more critical at this stage in the game than are national polls, since voters in these states are “high-information” voters with deep interest in the race. That said, we can garner some information from the national poll results and the data behind the poll.
I spoke to The Post’s Peyton Craighill about some of the underlying data. With the caveat that there is a small sample group, Romney is up 6 points since November with bumps in non-Tea Party supporters (plus-11) and Tea Party supporters (plus-7). He’s up 10 points since November among conservatives.
As for Gingrich, the peak of his polling likely came in early December (between the November and December polls). It’s not certain how far he’s fallen since the peak and whether he’s still declining.
Romney’s private-sector executive experience comes out as a net positive in polling and Gingrich’s “consulting” is a net negative. This suggests that Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s attacks on Bain Capital may actually be backfiring. It should also encourage Gingrich’s rivals to keep pounding on his Freddie Mac and other lobbying activities.
As Gingrich sheds voters, the top second choice is Romney. When voters are asked who they would turn to if Gingrich should disappear entirely from the race, Romney gains 12 points to go to 42 percent, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and Perry gain 4 points each to go to 19 and 11 percent, respectively, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) gets 3 points to go to 10 percent.
Again, this is a national poll in which voters with varying levels of interest and knowledge are surveyed. From what data there is, it appears that Romney is slowly consolidating his support. If Gingrich stumbles in Iowa and goes down further in the polls, the race may be shorter than some expect. The poll also underscores that, if the also-rans are going to move into contention, they will need to impress in Iowa and/or New Hampshire. Otherwise, they likely will remain at the back of the pack.