Republican enthusiasm advantage shrinks

The change is driven by waning excitement among Republicans: In September, nearly six in 10 Republicans and GOP-leaning independents said they were more enthusiastic about voting than in past elections, giving them a 13-point edge over Democrats. After dropping by nine points (and Democrats inching down one point), the GOP holds a smaller five-point edge this month.

Gingrich leads in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida

In addition to running up a 13-point advantage over Mitt Romney in Gallup’s daily tracking poll, Newt Gingrich has opened up double-digit advantages in three of four January contests.

In Iowa (Jan. 3 caucus), Gingrich leads Romney by 13 points in a CNN/Time/ORC poll released Wednesday, similar to his lead in polls released this week by the Washington Post-ABC News and CBS News/New York Times. Iowa is also a strong state for Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), who runs about even with Romney.

 In South Carolina (Jan. 21 primary), Gingrich posted a 23-point lead over Romney in a CNN poll of likely primary voters and a 16-point lead in a Winthrop University poll, both conducted in late November and early December.

In Florida (Jan. 31 primary), Gingrich holds a 23-point lead in CNN’s poll, garnering 48 percent support among likely voters statewide. Four years ago, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) won the Florida primary with 36 percent of the vote, beating out Romney by five percentage points. Gingrich held a smaller 13-point advantage in a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday, which was conducted among the broader population of registered Republican voters rather than likely voters.

New Hampshire (Jan. 10 primary) remains Romney’s last stronghold among the early primary states, but even there his lead has shrunk. Romney holds a nine-point lead over Gingrich in the latest CNN polling, smaller than his 16-point edge in an NBC/Marist poll conducted in late November. Ron Paul appears to be gaining ground in the Granite State — he garners 17 and 16 percent support in CNN and NBC polls, respectively, up from the low teens he saw in earlier polls.

In addition to New Hampshire, Romney could also get a boost from the Nevada caucuses held on Feb. 4. In 2008, he won the contest with a whopping 51 percent of the vote; Paul won silver with 14 percent support.

Warren edges Brown in Mass. Senate race

Liberal hero Elizabeth Warren has opened a slight seven-point edge over Sen. Scott Brown in the race for Teddy Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts, according to a UMass Lowell-Boston Herald poll released Wednesday (pdf with full results).The former Harvard professor’s support peaks, fittingly, at 62 percent among those with post-graduate degrees.

Brown’s approval rating dropped eight points from September to 45 percent in the new poll. Warren faces her own challenges though, chiefly that she is unknown to many voters; nearly four in 10 respondents were unable to rate her favorably or unfavorably. And despite her newfound lead in the Senate race, Warren’s unfavorable ratings rose nine points since this fall, while her positive marks ticked up four points.

Warren’s support for the Occupy Wall Street movement doesn’t bode especially well for her candidacy. The conservative advocacy group Crossroads GPS has run negative ads about Warren and the movement. Massachusetts voters oppose the movement by a 34 to 26 percent margin (with 40 percent neutral or undecided). Nearly one in four voters (23 percent) say Warren’s affiliation with the movement makes them less likely to support her, while about one in six (16 percent) are more inclined to vote for her. The rest say it won’t make a difference.

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