DES MOINES, Iowa – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has surged to the front of the field in the race to win the all-important Iowa caucuses, according to the Des Moines Register's third Iowa Poll released Saturday night.
Gingrich was a clear-cut winner, scoring 25 percent, ahead of Texas Rep. Ron Paul on 18 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney scored 16 percent to finish third.
Gingrich's stunning rise to the top of the field has come less than six weeks after he lagged in equal fifth position on seven percent. His elevation also appears to have now gained a permanent footing in Iowa, where 43 percent of those polled said they would vote for him first or second at the caucuses -- more than for any other candidate.
As has been the case for several other candidates who have led during the campaign, the numbers plunged for retired pizza executive Herman Cain -- who suspended his campaign Saturday after leading the last Iowa Poll in late October. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann tied with the outgoing Cain on eight percent.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry finished in a tie with former US Sen. Rick Santorum on six percent, while former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman rounded out the field on two percent.
The poll also found that 60 percent of voters were still willing to change their minds, showing there may still be time for more lead changes ahead of the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3.
Eleven percent of the 401 likely Republican caucusgoers who were interviewed for the poll between Nov. 27-30 said they were undecided.
The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points.