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Gingrich's Florida momentum not enough in a general election, Suffolk poll finds

Newt Gingrich may have momentum, but a Suffolk University poll for WSVN-Fox 7 found he'd be a weaker contender than Mitt Romney in a general election contest against President Barack Obama.

A seperate TIME/CNN/ORC poll released today found Romney and Gingrich are locked in a virtual dead heat just days before the Jan. 31 primary.

Romney led Obama by 47 percent to 42 percent in the Suffolk poll, while Obama topped Gingrich by 9 points -- 49 percent to 40 percent. Among independents, Obama led Romney 44 percent to 38 percent and opened up a 56 percent to 29 percent advantage over Gingrich, the poll found. Gingrich grabbed 12 percent of registered Democrats, while Romney secured 18 percent of registered Democrats.

"Newt Gingrich is weak among Florida independents and likely Democratic voters compared to Romney," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. "If Florida is one of six key states that swings the national election, independents in Florida hold that key, and this poll suggests that Newt won’t be able to secure Florida for his party."

Gingrich has 29 percent favorable and 58 percent unfavorable rating statewide among all likely voters. That's compared to Romney's 44 percent favorable and 37 percent unfavorable rating. Romney’s popularity was lower among independents: 37 percent favorable and 36 percent unfavorable, while Gingrich’s popularity among independents imploded to 19 percent favorable with 70 percent unfavorable.

The statewide survey of 600 Florida registered voters was conducted between Jan. 22 and 24, using live telephone interviews of landline and cell phone users. The margin of error is +/-4 percent. Suffolk University will be fielding a poll limited to likely Florida Republican primary voters this weekend, after the final Republican presidential debate in Florida. The university will release the findings at noon on Monday, the day before the primary.