The latest Rasmussen survey of likely voters — which shows Newt Gingrich beating Barack Obama, 45 to 43 percent— also shows Gingrich beating Obama among independents for the first time. In fact, the poll shows that Gingrich is now clobbering Obama among independents — 50 to 32 percent.

To be sure, this eye-opening result could be something of a statistical anomaly. Still, even if you average the four Rasmussen polls taken this month (all but one of which was taken before the last Republican presidential debate), Gingrich is trailing Obama by just 4 percentage points among independents (39 to 43 percent). That’s a far cry from mid-October, when Gingrich was well back of the GOP frontrunners, andRasmussen showedhim losing to Obama among independents by a margin of better than 2 to 1 (24 to 51 percent).

More recently, Gingrich has vaulted from an average of an 11-point deficit among independents (35 to 46 percent) in the three Rasmussen polls taken earlier this month, to a 22-point lead (50 to 32 percent) in this one. Could it be that this dramatic improvement among independents is partly (or even largely) a product of the principled, but also nuanced and reasonable, view on illegal immigration that he expressed in the last debate?

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