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Newt Gingrich fades, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul rise, say polls

Newt Gingrich's support is fading, says a new national poll. It shows Mitt Romney now tied with Gingrich, and Ron Paul gaining momentum.

By Mark FelsenthalReuters / December 20, 2011

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich at a campaign stop Global Security Services in Davenport, Iowa, Monday, Dec. 19, 2011.

(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

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Hiawatha, Iowa

Former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich's status as the front runner for the 2012 Republican U.S. presidential nomination is fading after weeks of attacks by rivals and intense media scrutiny of his political record and personality.

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Two new polls, one in Iowa and a national poll, show Gingrich backslidding.

Gingrich acknowledged that negative advertisements by political opponents had dented his popularity but suggested he would refrain from launching his own attacks while responding more aggressively to criticism of his record.

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"I will be back on a positive basis, I will ... tell you what I stand for and I will answer any question that comes up based on the false and inaccurate advertising of some of my friends," Gingrich told a crowd of about 250 people at a security business in Davenport, Iowa.

A national poll by CNN/ORC International shows that Gingrich and Romney were tied with 28 percent of support nationally from Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Last month, in another CNN national poll showed Gingrich was leading Romney, 24 to 20 percent.

"Early-December polls from other organizations tended to show Gingrich's support in the mid-30s with Romney in second place, so the current figures indicate that Romney has recently gained ground at Gingrich's expense," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

The same poll shows Rep. Ron Paul of Texas in third place with 14 percent support. That's up five percent since last month's national CNN/ORC International poll.

In Iowa, a Public Policy Polling survey of likely participants in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses -- the first-in-the-nation Republican nominating contest -- showed Gingrichh dropping to third place from first in the Midwestern state in the span of a week. Congressman Ron Paul of Texas led the new poll, which was released on Monday.

Gingrich's lead also evaporated in national polling as Republican candidates competed for the right to face President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in the November 2012 U.S. presidential election.

"Newt Gingrich's campaign is rapidly imploding and Gingrich has now seen a big drop in his Iowa standing two weeks in a row," Public Policy Polling, which is affiliated with the Democratic Party, said in a statement.

Gingrich earned just 14 percent support in the new Iowa poll compared to 22 percent a week ago and 27 percent two weeks ago.

Paul took over the lead in Iowa with 23 percent in the new poll, an increase of 5 percentage points over the past weeks. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who has been seen as Gingrich's main national rival, was second with 20 percent.

The survey of almost 600 people, taken Dec. 16-18, had a 4 percentage point margin of error.

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