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Poll: Gingrich leads in Minnesota

A new poll shows Newt Gingrich with a nearly 20-point lead on his Republican presidential nomination rivals among Minnesotans, two weeks ahead of the state’s Feb. 7 caucuses.

Gingrich checks in at 36 percent, trailed by Mitt Romney at 18 percent, Rick Santorum at 17 percent and Ron Paul at 13 percent. Fifteen percent of respondents told Public Policy Polling that they have yet to back a candidate, and nearly two-thirds said they could end changing their mind before the caucuses.

The poll brings good news for Gingrich. He has the highest favorability spread (+34) and he’s doing well with tea party voters and leads among both men and women, and across all age groups. Thirty-nine percent of his supporters said they are committed to Gingrich.

Romney won the Minnesota caucuses in 2008 with more than 41 percent of the vote, but his support is less than half that figure now. He’s doing poorly with tea party-aligned voters, garnering support from only 12 percent of them (44 percent support Gingrich’s bid). Romney’s supporters are also the least committed: nearly three-quarters said they were open to supporting another candidate. Romney would lose head-to-head match-ups with Gingrich (50-29) and Santorum (46-34), though he would end up beating Paul (51-29).

Paul’s numbers don’t look particularly good, either. He’s the only candidate with a net negative favorability rating (36 percent favorable to 45 percent unfavorable) and he is the second choice candidate of only 10 percent of respondents. Paul is the only candidate so far to make a serious push in Minnesota — he has a state office and he’s running television advertising. It’s all part of Paul’s strategy of focusing his efforts on caucus states rather than those with primaries.

(One caveat on Paul’s poor showing: most of the poll’s respondents reported being 46 or older, and Paul’s supporters tend to be younger. Indeed, among those aged 18-45, Paul is tied for the lead with Gingrich, at 26 percent).

The poll surveyed 303 likely Republican caucus-goers this past Saturday and Sunday. The margin of error is 5.6 percent. They released one portion of their Minnesota results yesterday and will release more information on Thursday.

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