Newt Gingrich has moved into the top tier of Republican presidential candidates, according to two national polls released Friday.

The rise of the ex-House speaker comes as other candidates in the race encounter hurdles. Businessman Herman Cain spent the last two weeks fending off sexual harassment allegations. Texas Gov. Rick Perry capped off a string of shaky debate performances with an awkward moment Wednesday when he couldn’t remember the three Cabinet departments he wants to eliminate.

The new polls continue to show Cain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at the top. But Gingrich has carved out a space right alongside them.

A McClatchy-Marist poll showed Romney leading with 23 percent, and Gingrich close behind with 19 percent. Cain was trailing slightly with 17 percent.

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