Newt Gingrich has rocketed to the top of a fourth national poll, surging past former front-runner Mitt Romney, according to the Quinnipiac University poll of likely Republican voters released Tuesday.
Gingrich polled at 26 percent, up 16 percent from the Nov. 2 poll, in which he took only 10 percent. Mitt Romney came in second at 22 percent, down from 23 percent in the previous poll.
Herman Cain, who has battled sexual harassment allegations and foreign-policy missteps, fell from 30 percent three weeks ago to only 14 percent in the latest poll. Rick Perry and Ron Paul each took 6 percent, Michele Bachmann 4 percent and Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman took 2 percent each.
The former House Speaker holds a considerable advantage with Republican voters over perceived knowledge and experience, with 48 percent saying he is more qualified to be president, compared to Romney’s 22 percent; 34 percent saying Gingrich is a stronger leader, compared to Romney’s 24 percent; and 46 percent saying Gingrich is more knowledgeable on foreign policy, compared to Romney’s 16 percent.
Romney, who said on Monday he had tried a beer and a cigarette as a teenager but not since, is widely viewed as having a stronger moral character than Gingrich, who is on his third marriage and faced ethics sanctions as Speaker of the House. Romney leads the “strong moral character” question 32 percent to 9.
The former Massachusetts governor also continues to be viewed as the most electable candidate. Thirty-eight percent of Republican voters say Romney is more likely to defeat President Obama in the 2012 general election, compared to only 23 percent for Gingrich.
In head-to-head match-ups with the president, Romney trailed Obama in the same poll three weeks ago, 47 percent to 42, but has closed that gap in the latest poll to trail only 45 percent to 44.
Gingrich trails the president 49 percent to 40.