NEWT Gingrich is struggling to regain momentum in America’s Republican presidential race after two new polls showed him falling behind Mitt Romney ahead of the Florida caucus on Tuesday.
The Republican hopefuls courted Florida’s sizeable electorate of Spanish decent this weekend with appearances at the Hispanic Leadership Network, where Romney received an unusually warm reception while the reaction to former Speaker of the House of Representatives Gingrich was cool.
Gingrich also held a rally with the Republican Jewish Coalition, trying to woo another key section of the Florida electorate.
Bouncing back after losing the South Carolina primary to Gingrich last Saturday, Romney had an eight percentage point lead over him in a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Friday. A Quinnipiac University poll gave him a nine percentage point edge.
That margin is similar to three polls released on Thursday that all showed Romney taking control of the battle in Florida, where the former Massachusetts governor enjoys a financial and organisational advantage over Gingrich.
Romney battered Gingrich in two debates last week, wounding him in the same format that has helped fuel Gingrich’s campaign.
“With the debates now over, Gingrich will need some other way to reverse the tide that appears to be going against him,” Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown said.
Tuesday’s Florida primary is the fourth contest in the state-by-state battle for the Republican nomination to challenge president Barack Obama, a Democrat, in the 6 November presidential election.
Romney won in New Hampshire and former US senator Rick Santorum won the first contest in Iowa.
Romney repeatedly attacked Gingrich at Thursday’s debate in Florida, scoring points on immigration, candidates’ finances and even lunar exploration.
“That was Romney on Red Bull,” Republican strategist Ron said. “You could tell Newt was tired; he’s carrying a heavy load.
“He was counting on pure momentum to carry him through Florida, and that momentum has stopped.”
Right-winger Gingrich, 68, is maintaining a heavy schedule. Yesterday he was due to visit seven events across hundreds of miles over more than 12 hours. Romney, a moderate Republican, who is 64, had just two events scheduled in the same time-frame.