Riding a wave of momentum after winning South Carolina’s Saturday primary, the former House speaker took a 34 percent to 26 percent lead over the former Massachusetts governor into Monday night’s Tampa presidential debate, according to InsiderAdvantage’s last Florida survey.
The swing does not come as a shock to Matt Towery, InsiderAdvantage’s founder.
“Gingrich does not have the television presence, and he had a tepid debate performance,” said Towery, a Times-Union columnist and former Gingrich staffer.
Towery said that because debates have played such an influential role in the nominating process, tonight’s Jacksonville debate at the University of North Florida could serve as kingmaker in Florida.
“We expected Gingrich to be this great debater, and he just wasn’t (in Tampa),” Towery said. “Jacksonville will be his make or break.”
Gingrich may also be helped by the $5 million cash infusion casino mogul Sheldon Adelson gave a super PAC supporting his campaign.
“It will get him on television, which will help,” Towery said.
A poll released Monday by Public Policy Polling had Gingrich with a 38 percent to 33 percent lead over Romney. Another put out by CNN-Time had Romney up 36 percent to 34 percent, which is within the margin of error.
The InsiderAdvantage numbers had Romney up in almost every demographic, including a 66 percent to 34 percent lead with Hispanic voters, one of Florida’s most important blocs.
The only good news for Gingrich is that 9 percent said they were still undecided.
“These numbers are not damning for Gingrich, but Romney has a definite advantage,” Towery said.
The survey was conducted Wednesday and included 530 likely Republican voters. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.