Newt Gringrich, ahead in Virginia, promises tougher counterpunches
Newt Gingrich leads Mitt Romney in Virginia, says a new poll. Gingrich responds to attack ads with a promise to hit back at GOP opponents.
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"Speaker Newt Gingrich jumps into the lead among Virginia Republicans, but Gov. Mitt Romney's calling card is still that he seems to have a better chance of actually winning the White House if nominated," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "As is the case across the country, Gingrich has come out of nowhere. The last time Quinnipiac University surveyed Virginia Republicans, in October, Gingrich was getting just 7 percent. As other candidates fade, Romney's 21 percent climbs to 25 percent now."
Two other polls released this week show Gingrich fading in Iowa and nationally. As a result, Gingrich says he will be quicker to respond to attacks and more agile in getting his message across to voters who may have lost faith in him after rivals launched a withering barrage of criticism of his past as a Washington insider.
A 44-stop bus tour in the run-up to the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus, daily calls with supporters to respond to new criticisms and another round of television ads will be cornerstones of the response by Gingrich , who will focus most of his efforts in Iowa for the next two weeks.
"I think a certain amount of drop in polls was to be expected given the amount of negative campaigning that has been going on," said Linda Upmeyer, the Iowa House Republican leader and the state chairwoman of Gingrich's campaign.
"But there are a lot of people out there who have not made up their minds yet," she said. "The challenge is to make sure that people have accurate information, and to get them the facts as quickly as we can."
The question for Gingrich will be whether he has enough time to rebound in the two weeks left to campaign in Iowa or if he has begun a political free-fall that will be hard to stop.
Gingrich, the former speaker of the House , has seen his national lead in polls over rival Mitt Romney disappear in the last week, with new CNN and Washington Post/ABC polls showing him falling back into a tie with Romney.
In Iowa, he has fallen behind rival Ron Paul as airwaves and mailboxes fill with ads from his rivals and from outside groups attacking him on his past as a Washington power-broker and on the $1.6 million he made working for mortgage giant Freddie Mac.
Gingrich said he was disappointed in all the "negative junk" and renewed his promise not to attack fellow Republicans. But he admits he was slow to counter the charges about his work for Freddie Mac, which many Republicans blame for the housing collapse.