When we learned on Saturday that the Des Moines Register, owned by Gannett - whose Chairman just happens to be a Private Equity firm head, and worked at Citigroup for most of her career, has endorsed Mitt Romney for president we said that this development "while likely set to provide a very short-term boost to Romney's chances, it is the baseless ongoing accusations against Ron Paul that will likely solidify the groundswell behind the Texan, with such desperate platitudes as "Ron Paul's libertarian ideology would lead to economic chaos and isolationism, neither of which this nation can afford." As it turns out, according to the latest Public Policy Polling data we can skip the kneejerk reaction and go straight to the after effect, because as of the latest polling, Ron Paul has finally taken the lead in Iowa. Granted this is just one of many polling organizations, and potentially it may be biased, but the bottom line is that often time reality (objective and subjective) is self-reinforcing. And when the US public realizes that the only candidate who deserves to be in the White House has a running chance, they will flock to him. Suddenly backing Ron Paul may just become the next cool thing. As for the Gingrich "honeymoon", it was over well before the nth divorce (pardon the pun). At this point we can only hope that the electoral game of reverse American Idol where the poll head is voted off in a week or so stops with Paul. However, with Perry, Bachmann, Romney and Gingrich already having been voted off, the only possible dark horse now remains Huntsman - does he have a running chance against Paul?
From the PPP:
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.
Paul's base of support continues to rely on some unusual groups for a Republican contest. Among voters under 45 he's at 33% to 16% for Romney and 11% for Gingrich. He's really going to need that younger than normal electorate because with seniors Romney's blowing him out 31-15 with Gingrich coming in 2nd at 18%. Paul is also cleaning up 35-14 with the 24% of voters who identify as either Democrats or independents. Romney is actually ahead 22-19 with GOP voters. Young people and non-Republicans are an unusual coalition to hang your hat on in Iowa, and it will be interesting to see if Paul can actually pull it off.