Polls show a Newt Gingrich comeback? Not so fast.

New polls seems to indicate that Newt Gingrich might be closing in on Mitt Romney, the front-runner in the GOP presidential race. How much and how quickly? That's still unclear.

Eric Thayer/REUTERS
Republican presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich attends a campaign event in Winnsboro, S.C., Wednesday.

Newt-mentum, catch it! Are polls showing that due to his fiery performance in Monday’s GOP debate Newt Gingrich is closing the gap on front-runner Mitt Romney?

Well, there is some evidence that may be the case. But it is preliminary, and may actually reflect a tightening of the race that has been underway for some time.

First up is a new CNN/Time poll, which finds that, in South Carolina, Mr. Romney is now the choice of 33 percent of likely Republican voters, down from 37 percent in early January. Ex-Speaker Gingrich, by contrast, is now the choice of 23 percent of GOP South Carolinians, up from 18 percent in the previous survey.

Yes, this poll shows that something may be going on. But as polling expert Nate Silver of The New York Times notes on his Twitter feed, pollsters started work on this survey on Jan. 13, so it’s impossible to tell whether there’s been a sharp rise in support for Gingrich since the debate.

It’s possible that the gap is even closer than the CNN results show. If it isn’t, Gingrich still looks likely to finish in second place: a 10-point gap is fairly large with only days to go before the vote.

Mr. Silver tweets that Insight LLC has showed him a poll that shows big movement toward Gingrich, but has small sample size. Again, that would be a hint of something, but not a definitive proof.

Bottom line: Silver has adjusted his rolling prediction of South Carolina’s results. He now says Gingrich has an 11 percent chance of winning, up from 8 percent. Romney’s chance of victory is 87 percent, according to Silver.

Which, we will point out, is pretty high. But not 100 percent, by any means.

Meanwhile, national polls are showing mixed signals about Newt-mentum at the moment.

Gallup’s five-day rolling average still has Romney with a comfortable lead over Gingrich, 33 percent of voters to 16 percent. That’s down a few points over the last three days.

Rassmussen Reports has a snap poll out Wednesday that shows much bigger movement, however. It puts Romney only three points ahead of Gingrich, 30 to 27.

The bottom line? There’s somethin’ happenin’ here. What it is, ain’t exactly clear.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.