Newt Gingrich reclaims frontrunner status as Cain stumbles

at 11:31 AM ET, 11/11/2011

OK, you can call it a comeback.

Two new polls show former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) climbing back into the ranks of the frontrunners in the GOP presidential race, just a few months after he was left for dead by his staff, his supporters and the media.
Republican presidential candidate former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich answers a question during a debate hosted by CNBC and the Michigan Republican Party at Oakland University on Wednesday. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Gingrich’s gains appear to have come at the expense of businessman Herman Cain , whose continuing battle with sexual harassment allegations is starting to drag down his poll numbers.

A new McClatchy-Marist College poll shows Gingrich overtaking Cainfor second place nationally. He nabs 19 percent to Mitt Romney’s 23 percent. Cain gets 17 percent, while no other candidate scores over 10 percent.

A new CBS-New York Times poll, meanwhile, shows a similar rise, with Gingrich tied with Romney for second place at 15 percent, and Cain leading at 18 percent. Undecided is second at 17 percent.

The polls suggest that Cain has lost some ground among Republican primary voters, and his struggles — combined with Rick Perry’s — appear to have given Gingrich an opening.

The CBS/NYT poll, despite showing Cain leading, also showed Cain’s support among women dropping from 28 percent in its last poll to 15 percent in the latest poll. He has also lost ground among conservatives and tea party supporters.

The McClatchy-Marist poll showed 45 percent of Republican primary voters believe Cain did something either unethical or illegal, while just 29 percent said he did nothing wrong.

Gingrich’s rise is particularly notable given his campaign’s financial problems and the staff exodus that occurred a few months ago. Many of his key staff went to help elect Perry.

Since then, Gingrich has used some strong debate performances to reclaim his status as a leading voice in the GOP.

The question now is whether his un­or­tho­dox and barebones campaign can handle the newfound scrutiny that will inevitably come with his rise. The former House speaker has a long history in politics and the scars to prove it. At Wednesday’s debate, for example, he was asked about money he was paid by Freddie Mac last decade.

Gingrich’s campaign has said in recent days that it is experiencing something of a fundraising surge. The former House speaker also will benefit from a new super PAC that was created to elect him.

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