TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has increased his lead over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich among likely Republican voters going into Florida's presidential preference primary on Tuesday, a new poll shows.
Romney was favored by 38 percent compared with Gingrich's 29 percent in a random telephone survey of 580 likely Florida Republican voters, the Quinnipiac (Conn.) University Polling Institute reported Friday. The results were closer to a Jan. 9 poll by Quinnipiac that showed Romney was favored 36-24 over Gingrich. One earlier this week had Romney up just 36-34 over Gingrich.
The survey was conducted between Tuesday - the day after a debate in Tampa - and Thursday, when a debate was held in Jacksonville.
"With the debates now over, Gingrich will need some other way to reverse the tide that appears to be going against him," said Peter Brown, Quinnipiac's assistant polling director. "With four days before Election Day, there is time for another reversal."
Quinnipiac's latest random telephone survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points, reported that only 6 percent of the likely GOP voters said they were undecided. However, 32 percent said they could still change their mind.
The new figures show Gingrich has lost some of the momentum he had picked up with a victory in South Carolina on Jan. 21. Romney benefited from a shift among male voters, who supported him 36-29 in the new poll, reversing Gingrich's 37-33 lead earlier in the week. Women continued to back Romney, 40 percent to 30 percent.
The Republican poll comes one day after Quinnipiac released a survey that showed Romney as the only Republican candidate capable of defeating President Barack Obama in November. That poll released Thursday has Romney and the president tied at 45 percent of support apiece if the election were held now.
The other two GOP presidential hopefuls, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, trailed the frontrunners badly in the latest Florida survey. Paul received 14 percent and Rick Santorum 12 percent.
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