Reporting Tim Kephart
Legislative Session Coverage
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Newt Gingrich has ridden the wave of his South Carolina win to a lead in Florida, according to the latest Public Policy Polling poll. But, Gingrich isn’t happy with his debate performance on Monday night.
According to PPP, Gingrich has opened up a five point lead over Mitt Romney in the GOP presidential primary, 38-33 percent. Gingrich is far outpacing his nearest conservative opponent, Rick Santorum, who checked in with 13 percent.
For his part, Gingrich has turned in several powerful debate performances to move into the lead. But, Monday night, the debate crowd wasn’t allowed to cheer and Gingrich lambasted NBC news, which conducted the debate.
Speaking to Fox News, Gingrich said “the media doesn’t control free speech,” and that he would “simply not going to allow” anyone to silence an audience.
For Romney, he’s trying to fend off the latest Gingrich surge in the polls, and so far, he’s only achieving mixed results for his efforts.
He lost badly in South Carolina after leading by double-digits heading into last week.
Gingrich’s voters are more committed than Romney’s with 78 percent saying they are firmly behind him versus 73 percent saying they are committed to Romney, according to the poll.
Romney’s biggest challenge may be trying to keep Rick Santorum in the presidential race. Santorum and Gingrich have effectively split the most conservative voters in the Republican Party.
But if Santorum drops out, Newt will win big.
According to the PPP poll, if Santorum left the race, his voters would flock to Gingrich and allow the former Speaker of the House to widen his lead to 43-36 percent among Florida voters.
All of it is generating plenty of buzz about Florida and achieving the one goal Florida legislators had when they moved the primary to January 31; make Florida matter again in the GOP nomination battle.