That headline probably needs some explanation. A new NBC/WSJ poll has a somewhat contradictory finding. On the one hand, Newt Gingrich leads the GOP field nationally. On the other hand, at this moment he is the weakest general election candidate.
Gingrich leads Romney 37 percent to 28 percent nationally among registered Republicans likely to vote in the primaries; Rick Santorum is in third with 18 percent, and Ron Paul is fourth with 12 percent.
Gingrich has built its advantage by consolidating the heart and soul of the Republican Party: very conservative voters, the South and the Tea Party.
Gingrich particularly struggles with women and independents. Women say they would vote for Obama over Gingrich by a wide 69-21 percent gap, far wider than the 54-38 percent difference by which Obama beats Romney.
With independents, Gingrich gets just 28 percent against Obama, who wins with 52 percent. By contrast, Obama narrowly edges Romney with independents, 44 percent to 36 percent.
Asked if the candidate has “high personal standards that set the proper tone for the country,” Romney gets a 67 percent positive score, Gingrich checks in at 32 percent.
The usual caution applies: This is a single poll, and it was taken on the heels of Gingrich having had his personal life spotlighted by the media over the past week or so and put up front in the Charleston debate. But if that gender gap holds up across a few polls and starts to solidify, it spells big trouble for Gingrich.