DES MOINES — Propelled by his debate performances and the demise of Herman Cain’s candidacy, former House speaker Newt Gingrich sits atop the Republican presidential field in Iowa with a clear lead over his closest competitors, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
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Gingrich, according to the survey, has advantages that extend well beyond the horse race that put him in an enviable position in the final weeks before the state’s Jan. 3 caucuses, which serve as the formal start of the long nominating season. 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.).
With 33 percent support among likely caucus-goers in the new poll, Gingrich runs well ahead of his two main rivals, Romney and Paul, a libertarian whose passionate following and anti-government rhetoric have made him a durable force in the race. Both are at 18 percent.
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