Human Events Blog

Snap Iowa Poll: Romney 24, Santorum 17; Paul, Gingrich, Bachmann In Virtual Tie for Third

 

All sorts of polls are going to bubble out of Iowa during the next couple of days.  Here’s an interesting snap poll from We Ask America, whose analysis curiously buries the real news by marveling at how well Mitt Romney is doing:

Mitt Romney 24%

Rick Santorum 17%

Ron Paul 14%

Newt Gingrich 13%

Michele Bachmann 12%

Rick Perry 10%

Jon Huntsman 4%

Undecided 7%

Kindly sprinkle the usual caveats about the unreliability of polls, the difficult of reaching many Iowa voters to get their opinions, and the volatility of the caucuses before ingesting this information.  There’s still plenty of time for every candidate to make some fatal mistakes!

The poll analysis from We Ask America rather breezily dismisses the remarkable news that Rick Santorum has muscled into second place, while former Iowa frontrunner Ron Paul has fallen into third – and could be in real danger of finishing fourth or fifth, since he’s in a virtual dead heat with Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann.

As for Romney, well, 24% is a very familiar number for him.  He’s been parked at 20-25% in virtually every national poll taken throughout the race.  It’s his baseline of support.  Which is not to say that it isn’t good enough to get the job done – if the We Ask America numbers hold up, he would win Iowa by a comfortable 7 points. 

The real question is how all the not-Romney voters would break, after some flagging candidacies drop dead in Iowa or New Hampshire.  Winning in Iowa is nice, but the real trick is to avoid getting creamed.  The nightmare scenario for Bachmann, Paul, and Perry is to fare so poorly in Iowa that they become implausible as alternatives moving forward, and voters in the big early South Carolina and Florida primaries begin shifting their support to candidates perceived as more viable.  This process will only be hastened by headlines that proclaim Bachmann a bust in Iowa after winning the Ames straw poll, or Ron Paul’s fiery campaign sputtering out with a fourth- or fifth-place finish.

Nobody wants an unexpectedly bad showing in Iowa, but it would be especially tough on Paul, whose earlier Iowa strength kept a lot of attention focused on his campaign.  Like every outsider candidate in the early stages of a long-shot race, he can prosper despite looking unlikely, but it’s dangerous for him to appear improbable. 

Paul also benefits from a good deal of “Operation Chaos”-type support from Democrats who have absolutely no intention of voting for him over Obama in the general election, and might lose interest in him as a vehicle for future open-primary meddling if he can’t manage a strong Iowa finish.  Since Obama faces no primary challenge, there will be lots of Democrats in open-primary states with time on their hands this year.

Those factors also increase the possibility of surging support that isn’t necessarily reflected in polls, so it’s still a fairly safe bet that Paul will win Iowa or take second place.  As for Romney, his campaign can be quite pleased with 25% support and first or second place in a still-crowded primary field, but if he doesn’t start cracking that twenty-five-percent barrier quickly in the next few primaries, they would have cause for concern.  There’s still plenty of time for all that non-Romney energy to coalesce around someone else, and he needs more than polls that show more people expect him to win than truly support him.

 

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