President Obama leads both Republican presidential front-runners in a new poll released on Friday.

Obama leads Mitt Romney 49 percent to 43 , and Newt Gingrich 55 percent to 37, in the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

Obama also notched his first positive approval rating in the poll in seven months, with 48 percent saying they approve of the job he’s doing against 46 percent who say they disapprove.


The number of people who say the country is heading in the right direction is another encouraging sign for the president — 30 percent said they were happy with the direction of the country, up from 22 percent last month.

The poll also measured the state of the GOP presidential race, and found Gingrich leading the field by nine points in Florida.

Gingrich took 37 percent, followed by Romney at 28, Rick Santorum at 18 and Ron Paul at 12 percent.

The poll was conducted between Sunday and Tuesday, before the president delivered a combative State of the Union address and then hit the road to campaign in key battleground states. Voters were also surveyed before Thursday night's GOP debate in Jacksonville, Fla., where Romney turned in a strong performance, going after Gingrich hard and at times seeming to fluster the former House Speaker.

The polls have swung wildly over the last few weeks for the two front-runners.

Gingrich entered the Sunshine State with momentum following his convincing victory in the South Carolina primary, but Romney overtook the former House Speaker after the first Florida debate on Monday.

At that debate he went after Gingrich for his ties to Freddie Mac, calling him an “influence-peddler.”

Still, Gingrich has a firm grasp on the core of the party. He leads among Tea Party supporters and those who consider themselves strongly conservative Republicans, while Romney leads among moderates.

However, Gingrich has another hurdle to overcome — at least a quarter of a million absentee ballots have already been cast, most of which were sent in while Romney held a double-digit lead in Florida.