Dennis Woltering and Dominic Massa / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- A new Eyewitness News poll reveals Newt Gingrich has taken a big lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination in Louisiana.
Gingrich, the former House Speaker, scores 31 percent in the poll. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney earns 23 percent, while businessman Herman Cain scores 12 percent and Texas Governor Rick Perry, 11 percent.
The telephone poll of 300 registered likely voters statewide was conducted Nov. 20-22 by Dr. Ron Faucheux of the Washington, D.C.-based Clarus Research Group. The respondents, contacted by landline and cell phone, were self-identified as Republicans.
Faucheux said the survey represents a dramatic turnaround from his last poll of Louisiana Republicans in early October.
'The big news, really, is the Gingrich surge,' Faucheux said. 'He went from 4 percent to 31 percent, which is a big, big jump.'
Gingrich, who ran fourth in the WWL-TV poll six weeks ago, has gained 27 points to take over first place.
Romney has gained six points to move from third to second place. Cain has lost nine points to fall from second to third and Perry, who has the support of Gov. Bobby Jindal, has lost 12 points to fall from first to fourth.
'If Rick Perry can't do better than fourth place in a neighboring state that has a popular Republican governor supporting him, then where can he do well? So this isn't a good sign for Rick Perry at all,' Faucheux said.
The remaining candidates score only single digits. Ron Paul has 6 percent; Michele Bachmann, 4 percent; Buddy Roemer, 2 percent; Jon Huntsman, 1 percent. Rick Santorum's support did not register in the poll.
Roemer, the former Louisiana governor, was down one percentage point from the October WWL poll.
Another key finding in this most recent survey? The percentage of undecided registered voters who identify themselves as Republicans is now just 10 percent, or a 14 point drop from six weeks ago. Faucheux says that shows people are now making a choice in the contest.
'I think what's happened is Republicans around the country have begun to look at this race more as a two-way race between Romney and Gingrich in the last few weeks, and it's certainly the case in Louisiana,' Faucheux said.
He added that the poll reflects similar trends in other southern states and with just four campaign weeks until the Iowa caucuses, Gingrich appears to be in a good position.
'Gingrich has surged at just exactly the right time to be able to go into the last month as the candidate with the momentum. We'll see how long that holds up,' Faucheux said.
The poll has a margin of error of 5.6 percent. The party primary in Louisiana is March 24.