Newt Gingrich has all but erased Mitt Romney's 23-percentage-point lead of a week ago among Republican voters nationally, and the two candidates are now essentially tied, at 29% for Romney and 28% for Gingrich. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum have significantly lower levels of support, at 13% and 11%, respectively.
Romney held a 23-point lead over Gingrich as recently as Jan. 11-15. Thus, in a matter of one week, Republicans who are registered to vote have shifted their support substantially - with Romney dropping 8 points and Gingrich gaining 14 points. The latest Gallup tracking update covers Jan. 18-22, encompassing Gingrich's come-from-behind 12-point victory over Romney in Saturday's South Carolina Republican primary. Gingrich began to gain on Romney well before Saturday's vote, however, most likely reflecting his performance in the two nationally televised debates held in South Carolina last Monday and Thursday.
Paul and Santorum at this point have less than half the support of either Gingrich or Romney; trends at the national level suggest that the GOP contest is settling down into a two-person race.This shifting of support between Romney and Gingrich is not a new phenomenon. Romney led Gingrich by as much as 19 points among national Republican adults in polling conducted in September, only to see that lead evaporate as Gingrich charged ahead to a 15-point lead over Romney in early December, 37% to 22%. Gingrich's support then fell steadily throughout December and Romney regained support after his near win in Iowa and his strong victory in the New Hampshire primary. Now, once again, Gingrich has surged back.