Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has a slight lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in a new CNN/ORC International poll released late Monday, as Republicans begin to see Gingrich as the candidate with whom they most agree and the most qualified to be commander-in-chief. Romney continues to be seen by a wide plurality of Republicans as the candidate with the best chance of beating President Obama in the general election.
Gingrich leads Romney, 24 percent to 20 percent, within the poll's margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent. Embattled businessman Herman Cain is third, with 17 percent, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry was fourth, with 11 percent.
A week ago, Romney led Gingrich, 24 percent to 22 percent, trailed by Cain, at 14 percent, and Perry, with 11 percent.
Gingrich leads Romney on the backs of more conservative voters: Among Republicans who say they support the tea party movement, 31 percent prefer Gingrich, compared to 21 percent for Cain and 19 percent for Romney.
Asked which candidate is the strongest leader, 29 percent choose Gingrich, and 26 percent choose Romney. But when asked which candidate is most qualified to be commander-in-chief, 36 percent say Gingrich, compared to just 20 percent for Romney.
A quarter of Republicans see Gingrich as the candidate most likely to agree with them on the most important issues. Romney rates third on that measure, with 16 percent.
Romney, on the other hand, is seen as the most likeable GOP candidate by 29 percent of Republicans. This is a potential liability for Gingrich, the poll shows. Cain was second on likeablity, at 25 percent. Just 9 percent said Gingrich was the most likeable GOP candidate, in fourth place, behind Perry.
Romney also retains an advantage on electability. Two-in-five Republicans think he has the best chance to beat Obama, while just 21 percent think Gingrich has the best chance against the president
The poll was conducted Nov. 18-20, surveying 402 Republicans.
Earlier Monday, a USA Today/Gallup poll showed Gingrich and Romney running neck-and-neck for the GOP nomination.