While there is no national Republican primary and such polls seem to have become a trailing indicator of the latest state-level contests, the Gallup poll demonstrates that Romney has lost ground in the majority of the country where voters will host primaries and caucuses in the coming months.
It also demonstrates that Gingrich’s surging popularity after two well-received debate performances took place not just in South Carolina - where he won Saturday’s primary - but across the U.S. In South Carolina, Gingrich beat Romney by 50 to 22 percent among voters who said debates were an important factor in their vote, according to network exit polls.
Gingrich’s South Carolina win came with a much higher percentage of votes among women than pundits were predicting, Amy Gardner blogged in She the People:
“Republican women don’t vote for cheaters, period,” one Republican strategist in Washington said in an interview a few days before the South Carolina primary. The strategist, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, echoed long-held conventional wisdom and years of electoral results showing that women, in particular, are less likely to vote for political candidates with a history of marital infidelity.
Gingrich has faced a gender gap for much of the election cycle, and he attracted significantly weaker support among women than men as recently as early last week in South Carolina. Most analysts attributed this to his tumultuous personal life, which includes three marriages and multiple extra-marital affairs, including one, during his second marriage and while he was House speaker, with the woman, Callista Bisek, who
Republican U.S. presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich celebrates backstage with his wife. Callista, and his supporters after his speech at his South Carolina Primary election night rally in Columbia, S.C. (Eric Thayer - Reuters)became his third wife.
Voters were reminded of that personal history just a few days before the primary, when a sensational interview aired on ABC with Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne, in which she accused Gingrich of asking her for an “open marriage” during the 1990s. The interview only heightened the expectation that Gingrich would not do well among women voters.
But something else entirely happened Saturday night in South Carolina: According to exit polls, Gingrich got nearly as much support from women as men. He won among married women, single women and evangelical women .He did beat other candidates by a somewhat larger margin among men, but he was tops among women as well, including 41 to 28 percent win over Romney among married women.