Having emerged relatively unscathed from unrelenting attacks during his first debate as Republican presidential nominee frontrunner on Saturday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is now commanding a sizable lead over his main rival, Mitt Romney, in three of the first four states to hold primaries or caucuses.
In a new NBC News/Marist Poll released after Saturday's debate, 42 percent of respondents in South Carolina said they intended to vote for Gingrich, with Romney trailing behind with only 23% support. The vote in the heavily conservative state has successfully predicted the Republican presidential nominee in every election cycle since 1980.
Gingrich is also poised to win in Florida, a key state in party primaries as well as the subsequent general elections. Gingrich enjoys a lead of 44% to 29% in the Sunshine State. With Iowa also set to bring him closer to the nomination Gingrich is now the favorite to win in three of the first states to hold primaries or caucuses, starting next month.
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A CNN poll revealed last week that Gingrich holds a double-digit lead over Romney in Iowa, the latter receiving only 20% to the former's 33% of the vote.
But New Hampshire, where he still has a comfortable lead, may be Romney's only bright spot in an otherwise grim forecast. According to the CNN poll, 35% of likely voters in that state said they would vote for Romney, with only 26% saying they favor the former House speaker. New Hampshire is set to hold a primary vote a week after Iowa's Jan. 3 caucuses.
Winning nowhere but in the state of New Hampshire is not what Romney is planning. The former governor has recently launched a new assault on Gingrich, this time questioning his role as a consultant for the mortgage giant Freddie Mac, a government-backed firm which contributed heavily to the 2008 financial crisis with its generous, some would say irresponsible, lending to many would-be homeowners.
"He [Gingrich] was on a debate saying that politicians who took money from Freddie and Fannie [a similar company] should go to jail, which is outrageous in itself," Romney told the conservative network Fox News on Monday.
But Gingrich quickly rebutted, saying in an impromptu press conference, "If Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain, then I would be glad to then listen to him.”
Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama, who is facing an increasingly uphill re-election battle, tried to win back some disenchanted voters this week. Appearing on the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes, the embattled president, who is facing historic lows in approval polls compared with most recent presidents at this point in their first term, told interviewer Steve Kroft that he was not surprised by the challenges of his job. "I didn't overpromise. And I didn't underestimate how tough this was gonna be," Obama said in response to a question on whether he had set out to do more than he could have.
"I always believed that this was a long-term project. That reversing a culture here in Washington, dominated by special interests, was gonna take more than a year. It was gonna take more than two years. It was gonna take more than one term. Probably takes more than one president," Obama said.
Obama also blamed the Republicans in Congress for torpedoing his initiatives and accused them of trying to protect the wealthy rather than the middle class. He even accused Republicans of trying to subscribe to failed policy. "Do they think that cutting taxes further, including on the wealthy, cutting taxes on corporations, gutting regulations ... Do we think that is gonna be somehow more successful?" Obama asked rhetorically, referring to the financial crisis that hit toward the end of his Republican predecessor's term in office.
"And if the American people think that that's a recipe for success and a majority are persuaded by that then I'm gonna lose. But I don't think that's -- I don't think that's where the American people are gonna go, because I don't think the American people believe that based on what they've seen before, that's gonna work," Obama said.
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