) -- Newt Gingrich got an endorsement from the

Union Leader

of New Hampshire over the weekend, but even more significant is that the former House speaker holds commanding poll leads in Iowa and South Carolina.

Two Insider Advantage surveys released Tuesday found Gingrich ahead of all GOP candidates in

Iowa and

South Carolina by 15 percentage points and 23 percentage points, respectively.

Newt Gingrich looks strong in Iowa and South Carolina

An average of the four most recent polls in Iowa (Insider Advantage, Rasmussen Reports, The Polling Company and

Bloomberg News

) now show Gingrich with an 8.2 percentage point lead against Mitt Romney; the three most recent surveys in South Carolina (Insider, The Polling Company and Clemson) put Gingrich ahead of the former Massachusetts governor by an average of 8.6 percentage points.

Though Iowa's Jan. 3 caucus and South Carolina's Jan. 21 primary are distant dates in polling terms, it's telling that Gingrich holds significant leads in two states that submit 53 total delegates as opposed to the 12 Romney could potentially earn from New Hampshire.

It is important to note that Romney has maintained a polling lead in the Nevada caucuses (28 delegates) and Florida primary (50 delegates). Wins in those two states could make him the frontrunner going into Super Tuesday.

But the

Union Leader's

conservative rubber-stamp for Gingrich likely will be to the former speaker's benefit among Republican-base voters in Florida. Florida's primary comes earlier than usual in 2012, and could be a pivotal race if Gingrich and Romney do in fact go into the state with the

close national numbers they have now.

Romney has boots on the ground

in Florida already, with three Cuban-American politicians offering their support for the former governor on Tuesday morning. Gingrich visited Florida on Nov. 17 and Nov. 26 to speak with voters in northern (Jacksonville) and southern (Naples) sections of the state -- two distinct types of GOP voters in Florida.

Newspaper endorsements like the

Union Leader's

are nice to have, but solid poll leads in early primary states are even better. Romney is still the long-term frontrunner with his large campaign coffers and extensive staff, but Gingrich is clearly the one who's gaining voter traction.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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