ABC News’ Michael Falcone, Amy Walter and John Berman report:
NAPLES, Fla. — A new CNN-Time Magazine-Opinion Research Corporation poll out on Wednesday shows Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich in a statistical dead heat for the lead in Florida less than a week before voters here cast their ballots.
Romney is laying claim to 36 percent support compared to 34 percent for Gingrich.
But, like other polls out within the last few days, the survey shows Gingrich taking a large bite out of Romney’s lead here just within the last week. In another CNN-Time-ORC poll taken Jan. 13-17, Romney stood at 43 percent with Gingrich trailing at 18 percent.
Wednesday’s poll, which was taken from Jan. 22-24, shows something of a silver lining for Romney.
On the first day pollsters were out in field (Sunday) Gingrich was up 38 percent to 32 percent, but on the second two days (Monday and Tuesday) it was Romney who had the advantage, 38 percent to 29 percent. It’s more evidence that Monday’s GOP debate in Tampa helped Romney and that Newt-mentum may be ebbing.
Romney insiders also believe polls show a slight trend in their direction. But the volatility of this year’s campaign season makes them feel this is no slam-dunk. They need to have a strong week and, most important, a strong debate Thursday night in Jacksonville.
In Wednesday’s poll former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum dropped 8 percentage points, slipping from 19 percent in mid-January to 11 percent today. Ron Paul, who is not competing in Florida, is going nowhere in the Sunshine State: he’s held steady at 9 percent from one week ago.
The fresh CNN-Time-ORC results track closely with a new Quinnipiac University poll of likely Florida voters out on Wednesday morning that also showed Romney at 36 percent compared to 34 percent for Gingrich.