The latest Gallup poll of registered Republican and Republican-leaning voters shows Newt Gingrich in first place in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, edging Mitt Romney by 1 percentage point (22 to 21 percent). Herman Cain is in 3rd place, with 16 percent support — followed by Ron Paul at 9 percent, Rick Perry at 8 percent, Michele Bachmann at 4 percent, and Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum at 1 percent apiece.

Gingrich has now also moved into first place in the Real Clear Politics average of recent polling.

Since early October, Gingrich is up 15 percentage points in Gallup’s polling, making him the only Republican presidential candidate whose support has increased significantly over that span. Meanwhile, Romney and Paul are each up 1 point since early October, Bachmann and Huntsman are each down 1 point, Cain and Santorum are each down 2 points, and Perry is down 7 points. (Gallup’s October polling didn’t screen for registered voters.)

Based on its latest results, Gallup writes that “the current contest stands to be the most competitive and perhaps most unpredictable for the Republican nomination since 1972, when the parties shifted the power to choose their presidential nominees away from party leaders at the national convention to the rank-and-file voters in state primaries and caucuses.”

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