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The Political Pulse

Latest opinion research and analysis

Romney retakes Florida lead?

A new Insider Advantage poll, conducted yesterday, shows Mitt Romney with an 8 point lead over the former House speaker in Florida. This represents a reversal from their Monday figures, which showed Mr Gingrich with a 9 point lead.

This Georgia polling firm is by people close to Newt Gingrich, leading some to suggest they may even display a bias in his favour. The fact they show such damaging figures will worry his campaign.

As I’ve suggested before, Newt will need to be a few points ahead of Romney on election day to counteract the latter’s likely lead in early voting held before the Gingrich's South Carolina victory.

A number of commentators, including Tim Stanley at The Telegraph, suggested that Monday night’s debate may have ‘burst Gingrich’s bubble.’ It was not that he was poor – it’s that he didn’t wow – if debates are the oxygen that fuels his candidature and continued momentum, he failed to breathe.

A rogue poll? Using Mike Smithson's rule of ‘one where you do not agree with the numbers', this seems not to apply, much as the comparatively small sample size gives a margin of error of 4%. Nate Silver commented before the release of these numbers that Newt’s momentum seemed to have stalled. His model puts Romney down as the slight favourite, giving him a 52% chance of winning, against Newt’s 48. In truth, the gap is probably slightly wider than that.

Attempting to come to Mr Gingrich’s rescue over the next week will be Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson’s and the $6million his pro-Newt SuperPAC Winning Our Future plans to spend on adverts blasting Mitt Romney’s record on healthcare and big business. So far, the former Massachusetts governor has been the sole occupier of the state’s airwaves.

That said, tonight’s CNN debate in Jacksonville may be the most important of Newt Gingrich’s political career. Or at least, what shapes whether he has one left to pursue. Their decision to allow clapping will probably help him.

The stakes could not be higher in this almost unprecedented big-state, big-money, big-ego primary.