When a week ago we reported the latest weekly data from the Public Policy Polling institute, many were stunned to learn that Ron Paul was in the lead in the Iowa caucuses. In light of the neverending media onslaught against the Texan, this is not very surprising. The discrepancy between PPP and other, more "accepted" polls such as the CNN/Time was borderline ridiculous, when it came to the standing of the anti-Fed crusader (attacks against whom have recently passed into the Twilight Zone as per this NYT article). Just released, however, is the latest CNN poll information, which is far more in line with what PPP predicts, namely an Iowa photofinish between Paul and Romney. "Twenty-five percent of people questioned say if the caucuses were held today, they'd most likely back Mitt Romney, with 22% saying they'd support Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Romney's three point margin is within the poll's sampling error. The poll's Wednesday release comes six days before Iowa's January 3 caucuses, which kickoff the presidential primary and caucus calendar. The Iowa caucuses are followed one week later by the New Hampshire primary." In its previous poll, CNN had Gingrich in the lead with 33%, followed by Romney and Paul with 20% and 17%. So while CNN implicitly admits that Paul may well be in the lead net of sampling error, it masks this by making the story focus on something totally irrelevant: the fact that somehow Santorum's support is surging.
From CNN, deflecting from the main story:
In Iowa, both Romney and Paul are each up five points among likely caucus goers from a CNN/Time/ORC poll conducted at the start of December. The new survey indicates that Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, is at 16% support, up 11 points from the beginning of the month, with Gingrich at 14%, down from 33% in the previous poll. Since Gingrich's rise late last month and early this month in both national and early voting state surveys, he's come under attack by many of the rival campaigns.
According to the survey, 11% are backing Texas Gov. Rick Perry, 9% are supporting Rep Michele Bachmann, and 1% are backing former Utah Gov. and former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who's spending nearly all his time campaigning in New Hampshire.
Santorum is campaigning on a shoestring budget, but he's visited all of Iowa's 99 counties and has made a strong pitch towards social conservative voters, who are very influential here in Iowa on the Republican side. Wednesday Santorum was up with a new radio spot on Hawkeye State airwaves touting endorsements by social conservative leaders. His pitch may be starting to pay off.
"Most of Santorum's gains have come among likely caucus participants who are born-again or evangelical, and he now tops the list among that crucial voting bloc, with support from 22% of born-agains compared to 18% for Paul, 16% for Romney, and 14% for Gingrich," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
So while the MSM continues to pray that Paul does not go far, here is the PPP following up on the story it broke last week:
The last week and a half has brought little change in the standings for the Iowa Republican caucus: Ron Paul continues to lead Mitt Romney by a modest margin, 24-20. Newt Gingrich is in 3rd at 13% followed by Michele Bachmann at 11%, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum at 10%, Jon Huntsman at 4%, and Buddy Roemer at 2%.
Paul's strength in Iowa continues to depend on a coalition of voters that's pretty unusual for a Republican in the state. Romney leads 22-20 with those who are actually Republicans, while Paul has a 39-12 advantage with the 24% who are either independents or Democrats. GOP caucus voters tend to skew old, and Romney has a 34-12 advantage with seniors. But Paul's candidacy looks like it's going to attract an unusual number of younger voters to the caucus this year, and with those under 45 he has a 35-11 advantage on Romney. The independent/young voter combo worked for Barack Obama in securing an unexpectedly large victory on the Democratic side in 2008 and it may be Paul's winning equation in 2012.
Paul continues to have much more passionate support than Romney. 77% of his voters are firmly committed to him, compared to 71% for Romney. Among voters who say their minds are completely made up Paul's lead expands to 7 points at 28-21. If Paul's lead holds on through next Tuesday it appears he'll have won this on the ground- 26% of voters think he's run the strongest campaign in the state to 18% for Bachmann and 10% for Santorum with just 5% bestowing that designation to Romney. There's also an increasing sense that Paul will indeed win the state- 29% think he'll emerge victorious with 15% picking Romney and no one else in double digits.
And since the whole public is beyond tired of the relentless media spin, the good thing is that there is less than a week until the Iowa results are actual. One can only hope Diebold has not been used to tabulate the votes.