(Reuters) - A surge in support for Republican White House hopeful Newt Gingrich has made him the new front-runner in Iowa, which holds the first of next year's presidential nominating contests, according to a closely watched opinion poll published on Saturday.
Gingrich, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, has support from 25 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers, up from just 7 percent in late October, the poll conducted for The Des Moines Register newspaper found.
Texas Representative Ron Paul and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney finished second and third, with support at 18 percent and 16 percent, respectively.
Support for Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann and former pizza magnate Herman Cain, who dropped out of the race on Saturday, was tied at 8 percent.
The Iowa caucuses, set for Jan. 3, kick off the state-by-state contests to choose the party presidential nominee who will challenge Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.
The latest Iowa Poll was conducted Nov. 27-30 and was based on telephone interviews with 401 Republicans who are likely to attend the caucuses. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
In 2008, the poll correctly predicted wins for former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in the Republican contest and Obama, then a senator, in the Democratic caucus.
(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins)