Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has recaptured a significant lead over a fading Newt Gingrich in next Tuesday's Florida Republican presidential primary, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released early Friday.
Romney leads Gingrich, the former House Speaker, 38 percent to 29 percent. Romney's lead is just outside the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is third, at 14 percent, followed by former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., with 12 percent. Seven percent are backing another candidate or are undecided.
Romney now leads Gingrich among both men and women, a reversal from a Quinnipiac poll conducted early this week, then Gingrich held a narrow lead among men. The previous poll, released Wednesday, showed the top two candidates virtually tied, with Gingrich surging after his blowout victory in South Carolina on Saturday.
The Quinnipiac poll shows the division between Romney and Gingrich is largely setting up along ideological lines, not class lines. Romney holds a 7-point lead among those likely primary voters without a college degree and a 13-point lead among those with a degree. Romney leads by 3 points among voters making less than $30,000 a year, 22 points among those making between $30,000 and $50,000, and 14 points among those making more than $100,000. The two candidates are neck-and-neck among those making between $50,000 and $100,000 a year.
But Romney is still struggling among the state's more conservative voters. He trails Gingrich, 41 percent to 20 percent, among those likely primary voters who support the tea party. Among those who do not support the tea party, Romney romps, 47 percent to 24 percent.
Romney also holds a massive lead over Gingrich among those voters who say they are not evangelical or born-again Christians, 49 percent to 27 percent. But Gingrich leads among evangelicals, 39 percent to 29 percent.
In the waning days of the campaign in Florida, both candidates' negatives are rising, the poll shows. The percentage of likely voters who have an unfavorable opinion of Romney has risen 9 points since earlier this week, and the percentage who view Gingrich unfavorably is up 12 points. Now, just half of likely voters have a favorable impression of Gingrich, compared to 61 percent who view Romney favorably -- an double-digit decrease for both candidates over the previous poll.
There is still some fluidity in the race with four days to go until the election: Two-thirds of those likely voters who indicated they were supporting or leaning toward supporting a candidate said their mind is made up, while 32 percent of those with a candidate preference said they might change their mind before the election. Romney and Gingrich supporters are equally likely to say their minds are made up.
The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted Jan. 24-26, Tuesday through Thursday. The school surveyed 580 likely Republican primary voters.