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Gingrich grows lead in Iowa, while Romney holds strong in New Hampshire

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Newt Gingrich has surged into the lead in Iowa, but Mitt Romney’s big lead in New Hampshire is safe for now, according to a pair of new NBC News/Marist College polls. Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, speaks at a tea party rally in the Staten Island borough of New York on Saturday. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

The polls of the two earliest states in the presidential nominating contest both show significant progress for Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, who has moved up about 20 points in each state since October.

In the NBC/Marist poll, Gingrich takes 26 percent while Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is in second place with 18 percent. Texas Rep. Ron Paul takes 17 percent, businessman Herman Cain 9 percent and Texas Gov. Rick Perry at 9 percent. No other candidate above 5 percent.

The poll was conducted before Cain suspended his campaign Saturday. Factor in who his supporters said was their second choice and Gingrich’s lead grows to nine points. He would be at 28 percent while Romney and Paul would be tied at 19 percent.

In New Hampshire, Romney continues to hold a big lead in the NBC/Marist poll. He’s at 39 percent, compared to Gingrich at 23 percent and Paul at 15 percent. Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who is skipping Iowa, is in fourth place at 9 percent. No other candidate is above 3 percent.

Romney has shown in recent days that he will indeed try to win Iowa, but New Hampshire is his must-win early state.

Cain took only 2 percent in New Hampshire, so his exit doesn’t have as much of an impact on the race there.

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