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Politics

GOP Field Looks to Chip Away at Newt Gingrich's Lead in Florida

November 29, 2011 - 6:00pm

Texas Congressman Ron Paul is beefing up his campaign organization in South Florida.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is pulling out the big guns, with popular, and blunt-talking, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie trying to drum up support from GOP voters in the Sunshine State while on a previously scheduled trip to Orlando.

These are some of the signs that contenders for the Republican presidential nomination are looking to slow down former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich who has been building after a series of strong debate performances.

It won't be easy.

With less than two months until Florida holds its primary -- the fourth state in the procession that will determine the Republican candidate who will emerge to take on President Barack Obama in 2012 -- Gingrich is gaining momentum as he looks to carry the Sunshine State.

Gingrich is crushing his Republican presidential primary rivals in Florida according to an InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion Research poll taken for the Florida Times-Union and released on Wednesday.Noted pollster and pundit Matt Towery, CEO of InsiderAdvantage, had been a Gingrich staffer back in the 1990s but is currently unaffiliated with the former congressional leader or any of the other candidates.

Gingrich tops the poll with 41 percent, followed by former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts who takes second with 17 percent. Romney took second behind John McCain in the 2008 Florida primary, winning 31 percent and carrying 18 counties. Businessman Herman Cain, who won the Republican Party of Floridas Presidency 5 straw poll in Orlando back in September, stands in third with 13 percent.

The rest of the field follows in single digits. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas takes fourth with 7 percent, followed by another Republican from the Lone Star State -- U.S. Rep. Ron Paul with 4 percent. Paul also ran in the 2008 primary, finishing in fifth place with less than 3.25 percent of the vote. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota stands in sixth place with 3 percent, followed by former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania with 1 percent. Three percent back other candidates while 11 percent of those surveyed have no opinion.

The poll of 513 likely Republican primary voters was taken on Nov. 28 and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

In an email sent out to supporters on Wednesday, Gingrich pointed to other signs of momentum in the Sunshine State, noting that he and his wife Callista had held an amazing book signing in Naples, Fla., on Saturday" which drew 900 people in five hours.

Other candidates are also increasing their activities and organizations in Florida. Paul supporters will be opening their South Florida headquarters in Miami on Saturday with plans to open an office in Palm Beach in the weeks to come.

The excitement being generated by Ron Pauls constitutionally-limited government, sound money and pro-growth message has caused the grass-roots support to swell and launch a grass-roots effort to make a tremendous impact here, said Hector Roos, who is coordinating Pauls efforts in South Florida, in a statement on Wednesday.

While Romney had campaigned in the Sunshine State earlier in the week, his team is sending out Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey --who had been open to running for the nomination himself before announcing that he would not enter the race --to West Palm Beach on Thursday. Christie will campaign for Romney before heading off to Orlando for the Republican Governors Association meeting.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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