Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has a slight lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney among Virginia Republicans in the race for president, according to a new poll.

The Quinnipiac University poll, released Wednesday morning, shows Gingrich at 30 percent and Romney at 25 percent among Republican voters.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, left, and former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. (REUTERS/Jim Young)

But Romney runs better against President Obama, with 44 percent among all voters compared to Obama’s 42 percent. Obama tops Gingrich, 46 percent to 41 percent.

“Speaker Newt Gingrich jumps into the lead among Virginia Republicans, but Gov. Mitt Romney’s calling card is still that he seems to have a better chance of actually winning the White House if nominated,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Obama’s disapproval rating sits at 47 percent. Fifty-three percent of those polled say he does not deserve to be re-elected.

Obama, the first Democratic president to win Virginia in 44 years, recently opened new offices in the state. The campaign already has more than a dozen staffers in every region of the state, including Northern Virginia. Some of those staffers have been here for more than two years through Organizing for America. It has held more than 2,000 grassroots trainings, planning sessions, house parties, voter registration drives and phone banks since April.

“In 2008, President Obama was the first Democrat to carry Virginia since 1964,’’ Brown said. “To do it again in 2012, he’ll need to improve his current standing among Virginians.’’

Among Republicans, Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) gets 9 percent. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michelle Bachmann (Minn.) both come in at six percent. Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman gets four percent and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum three percent. Just two months ago, Gingrich had seven percent.

The Republican presidential primary in Virginia is March 6.

Eleven months before Election Day, the likely matchup between Republican George Allen and Democrat Tim Kaine in the closely watched 2012 U.S. Senate race is essentially tied, according to the poll.

Allen received 44 percent, while Kaine received 42 percent, Quinnipiac University’s poll of Virginia voters showed.

The poll comes after the former governors squared off in their first debate Dec. 7 at the state Capitol, where they aggressively attacked each other on taxes and spending.

Former Gov. Tim Kaine, left, and former Senator George Allen, right, greet each other after the December debate. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

“Two popular former governors mean Virginia’s U.S. Senate race could be a real cliff-hanger,’’ Brown said. “This is the fourth Quinnipiac University poll showing the 2012 race too close to call.”

The poll did not include the other candidates in the race.

Four others — businessmen Tim Donner, lawyer David McCormick, Bishop E.W. Jackson and tea party activist Jamie Rad­tke — are competing in the Republican primary. Two others — Julien Modica, a health-care company executive, and Courtney Lynch, founding partner of a consulting firm — are running in the Democratic primary.

In September, a Quinnipiac poll showed Allen at 45 percent and Kaine at 44 percent. The next month, another poll showed Allen had 44 percent and Kaine 45 percent. Both months’ results are well within the polls’ margin of error.

The independent Quinnipiac poll, conducted by live interviewers with registered voters on land lines and cell phones, releases periodic voter surveys of office holders, candidates and issues in Connecticut, New York, New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. This year, it added Virginia, increasingly considered a swing election state.

Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,135 registered voters Dec. 13-19. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

The polls also included 489 Republicans with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

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