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Once again the lead in Iowa appears to be shifting as Newt Gingrich continues to hemoerage votes in recent days. Ron Paul, on the other hand, seems to be mounting for a strong showing in Iowa as Mitt Romney continues to hang on for the bumpy ride.

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Report from Politico:

SIOUX CITY, IOWA –The alarms are sounding in Iowa.

Conservatives and Republican elites in the state are divided over who to support for the GOP nomination, but they almost uniformly express concern over the prospect that Ron Paul and his army of activist supporters may capture the state’s 2012 nominating contest — an outcome many fear would do irreparable harm to the future role of the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

In spin rooms, bar rooms and online forums, the what-to-do-about-Paul conversation has become pervasive as polls show him at or near the top here just weeks before the January 3rd vote.

Paul poses an existential threat to the state’s cherished kick-off status, say these Republicans, because he has little chance to win the GOP nomination and would offer the best evidence yet that the caucuses reward candidates who are unrepresentative of the broader party.

Report on Paul’s Iowa blitz from Public Policy Polling:

Newt Gingrich’s campaign is rapidly imploding, and Ron Paul has now taken the lead in Iowa. He’s at 23% to 20% for Mitt Romney, 14% for Gingrich, 10% each for Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry, 4% for Jon Huntsman, and 2% for Gary Johnson.

Gingrich has now seen a big drop in his Iowa standing two weeks in a row. His share of the vote has gone from 27% to 22% to 14%. And there’s been a large drop in his personal favorability numbers as well from +31 (62/31) to +12 (52/40) to now -1 (46/47). Negative ads over the last few weeks have really chipped away at Gingrich’s image as being a strong conservative- now only 36% of voters believe that he has ‘strong principles,’ while 43% think he does not.

Paul’s ascendancy is a sign that perhaps campaigns do matter at least a little, in a year where there has been a lot of discussion about whether they still do in Iowa. 22% of voters think he’s run the best campaign in the state compared to only 8% for Gingrich and 5% for Romney. The only other candidate to hit double digits on that question is Bachmann at 19%. Paul also leads Romney 26-5 (with Gingrich at 13%) with the 22% of voters who say it’s ‘very important’ that a candidate spends a lot of time in Iowa. Finally Paul leads Romney 29-19 among the 26% of likely voters who have seen one of the candidates in person.

What happens if Ron Paul succeeds in winning the Iowa caucus? The question seems a little silly to me since if a candidate wins the contest, it means they were preferred over other candidates. Why would Ron Paul cause such a stir among the Iowa establishment and the national GOP establishment?

His foreign policy views are not in line with the traditional GOP platform though most of his other views can be shared across the conservative/libertarian spectrum such as free market capitalism and limited government.

The question is whether a Paul win essentially nullifies Iowa since it is questionable whether he can pull off a victory in a larger primary setting such as New Hampshire and South Carolina. The caucus model in Iowa where usually only the most active and enthused voters participate is a ripe setting for Paul to harvest a victory. The same cannot necessarily be said for a walk in/walk out traditional primary setting.

This will come down to the wire with the lead changing frequently.

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Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.

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