Mitt Romney greets supporters after he delivered a speech ahead of the State… (Emmanuel Dunand / AFP/Getty…)
What a difference a primary makes.
New polling data shows a remarkable erosion of support for Mitt Romney in just a matter of days, both among Republican voters he's appealing to now and the all-important independents he'd need in a general election.
Gallup's daily tracking poll Tuesday puts Newt Gingrich back on top the field of presidential hopefuls among Republicans nationally, having erased what had been a 24-point Romney lead in only nine days.
The former House speaker is supported by 31% of GOP voters sampled, up from 13% a little more than a week ago, while Romney has slipped to 27%, down 10 percentage points in the same period.
For Gingrich, it's his first lead nationally among Republicans in Gallup's poll since late December.
Meanwhile a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Romney has a 51% unfavorable rating among independent voters, the highest number they've recorded in six years for the former Massachusetts governor. Only 23% view him favorably.
Even among Republicans, Romney's unfavorable rating has jumped 14 percentage points in just two weeks.
It's a troubling trend for Romney, one that began just after he scored a double-digit win in the New Hampshire primary following what at the time was thought to be a narrow Iowa caucus triumph. Since then his personal wealth and private sector record as the head of Bain Capital have become dominant issues in the GOP race.
He has just one week to stem the bleeding before a five-day stretch of Republican contests in Florida and Nevada. After Nevada's caucuses, there is no delegate-awarding contest until late February. (Caucuses in Maine, Minnesota and Colorado and the Missouri primary will not immediately determine delegate allocation in those states.)
As President Obama prepares to deliver his election-year State of the Union address, his job approval rating is at 44% in Gallup's tracking poll. According to the Washington Post-ABC poll, 53% of Americans -- including 51% of independents -- view him favorably.