Newt Gingrich leads GOP field ahead of crucial Iowa caucuses (VIDEO)


Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaks to the media at the Union League Club following an earlier meeting with Donald Trump at Trump Tower on December 5, 2011 in New York City. Gingrich, who's seen a surge in polls in recent weeks, attended a town hall event December 3, hosted by the Tea Party of Staten Island.


Spencer Platt

Newt Gingrich has a clear lead over his competitors for the Republican presidential nomination during the crucial buildup to the Iowa caucuses, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

A Gallup poll released Monday, meantime, shows that Republican voters now consider Gingrich and Mitt Romney the only acceptable candidates, Deseret News reported.

Gallup found 62 percent considered Gingrich acceptable, and 54 percent said the same of Romney.

Perry had 41 percent support, followed by Bachmann and Cain at 37 percent, Ron Paul at 34 percent and Jon Huntsman Jr. at 28 percent.

The Wall Street Journal interpreted the poll results thus:

A new Gallup poll, the first of its kind in the 2012 cycle, found that six in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents saw the former House speaker as an acceptable nominee.

Just over half said Mitt Romney would be an acceptable nominee. The two current front-runners were the only GOP contenders deemed acceptable by more than half of Republicans polled.

Gingrich on Monday confidently declared that he planned to challenge President Barack Obama in every state next year, Deseret News reported.

However, in news not likely to inspire confidence among all Republican voters, a potential run by the former House speaker has also been welcomed by Democrats.

(GlobalPost reports: Potential Gingrich run delights Democrats

The Washington Post, meantime, credited Gingrich's debate performances and the demise of Herman Cain’s candidacy for his bump in its poll. 

On electability, empathy and handling the economy, he does as well as or better than former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who has long been described as the nominal front-runner for the nomination, or Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.).

Cain has yet to formally endorse a candidate, though according to the Washington Examiner, "most expect him to voice his support for Gingrich, a fellow Georgian."

(Read more from GlobalPost: Herman Cain suspends his campaign for president)

The first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, beginning Jan. 3, serve as the formal start of the long nominating season.

Washington Post reporter Dan Balz traveled there and found Republican voters undecided, to say the least.

'"I am on my fourth way of thinking' about who would make the strongest challenger to President Obama," said Arlan Eckland of Dennison, Iowa. Eckland's wife Gwen, is leaning toward Gingrich, after being excited about Bachmann and Perry only to watch them wilt under the media spotlight, Balz reported.