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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.

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An onslaught of television and radio commercials by Gingrich's opponents that paint him as unreliable and a Washington insider has taken a toll.

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"It's tough not to feel the effects in millions of dollars in advertising spent against you with no comparable response," said Tim Albrecht, spokesman for Republican Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and a former Romney staffer during Romney's unsuccessful run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

Gingrich said that criticism aimed at him by rivals -- omnipresent on Iowa television and radio -- was the reason for his declining poll numbers.

"You get enough negative ads before you start answering them, your numbers go down for a while," he told reporters after speaking to a small crowd at Global Security Services, a small business.

The former U.S. congressman from Georgia urged supporters to tell other candidates to take ads critical of other Republicans off the air because they would ultimately benefit Obama in the general election. He pledged to answer any questioning of his record or positions directly and immediately.

"Long before the caucuses, you'll know every answer to every single negative ad," he told a crowd of about 300 at Level Ten, an apparel business in the town of Hiawatha.


Gingrich took a swipe at his rival Paul, who has opposed much of U.S. military action abroad, while discussing concerns about North Korea's nuclear capabilities.

"The world is dangerous," he said. "I really stand apart from some of our candidates in believing we need a strong defense."

Gingrich's front-runner status has prompted attacks from rivals who say he is an unreliable conservative and an influence peddler, particularly because of fees he earned from Freddie Mac, a mortgage giant tied to the economic recession.

"(Gingrich) is taking an unprecedented beating. ... I have just never seen so many negative, substantively negative ads aimed at one candidate from so many different angles," said Cary Covington, a professor of political science at the University of Iowa. "Ron Paul is just eviscerating Newt Gingrich in the ads."

Iowa political operatives said there is still plenty of time for more changes in the two weeks before the caucuses.

"Newt may have peaked at the right time or peaked just a little bit too early," said Will Rogers, one of the members of Gingrich's campaign team who resigned en masse in June amid frustration over how it was being run.

Rogers, who has returned to support Gingrich as a volunteer and is heavily involved with the Republican Party, said polls represent only a snapshot in time and said it seems that many Iowa voters still remain undecided.

Rogers said Paul was benefiting from his strong organization in Iowa, unlike Gingrich who had to scramble to beef up his staff as he rose in the polls.

"You don't know where Iowans truly sit until Jan. 3," Albrecht said. "There's an unprecedented level of uncertainty this late."

"Caucuses always surprise people at the end. One thing caucuses do is defy conventional wisdom. Someone always dramatically outperforms poll numbers and someone under performs."

(Additional reporting by Paul Eckert and Lily Kuo in Washington; Writing by Deborah Charles; Editing by Will Dunham)

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