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Poll: Romney leads Gingrich in Florida

The roller-coaster polling in Florida continues. Mitt Romney, who watched his double-digit lead there last week seemingly evaporate in the span of a Newt Gingrich sound-bite, has opened a nine-point lead over Gingrich in a Quinnipiac University poll released this morning.

Just four days before the nation’s first big-state presidential primary, the former Massachusetts governor took 38 percent of support from likely Republican voters. Gingrich garnered 29 percent.

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On Wednesday, the poll showed a statistical dead heat. Other polls earlier this week had Gingrich with a comfortable lead.

The volatility is likely to continue up to Tuesday’s voting: Although only 6 percent of the respondents in today’s poll said they are undecided, 32 percent added they might change their mind.

Representative Ron Paul of Texas had 14 percent of likely primary voters today, with former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum getting 12 percent.

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“Speaker Newt Gingrich’s momentum from his South Carolina victory appears to have stalled and governor Mitt Romney seems to be pulling away in Florida,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Romney also has a better favorability rating from likely primary voters, which supports his lead in the horse race.

“Of course, with four days before Election Day, there is time for another reversal.’’

Also encouraging for Romney’s campaign, the survey was taken from Tuesday to Thursday, before last night’s debate. Many observers, including conservative commentators, thought Romney had the upper hand in the debate, with Gingrich turning in an atypical lackluster performance.

The poll surveyed 580 Republican likely primary voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

Michael Bailey can be reached at m_bailey@globe.com
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