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December 31, 2011 8:15 PM Romney leads, Santorum closing in Iowa

By Steve Benen

As we discussed a few months ago, some polls matter more than others. In Iowa, the Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll is widely considered the gold standard for Hawkeye State polling, and therefore gets considerably more attention than other surveys in the state.

And with that in mind, and the caucuses just a few days, here’s what the race for the Republican presidential nomination looks like in Iowa:

1. Mitt Romney: 24% (up seven points since early December)
2. Ron Paul: 22% (up four points)
3. Rick Santorum: 15% (up nine points)
4. Newt Gingrich: 12% (down 13 points)
5. Rick Perry: 11% (up five points)
6. Michele Bachmann: 7% (down one point)

Jon Huntsman, who was at 2% a month ago, was not mentioned in the Register’s report this evening.

The results, however, come with a very important caveat: the Iowa Poll was conducted Tuesday through Friday, and the results from the first two days were quite different from the last two days.

[T]he four-day results don’t reflect just how quickly momentum is shifting in a race that has remained highly fluid for months. If the final two days of polling are considered separately, Santorum rises to second place, with 21 percent, pushing Paul to third, at 18 percent. Romney remains the same, at 24 percent.

“Momentum’s name is Rick Santorum,” said the Register’s pollster, J. Ann Selzer.

A couple of other tidbits jump out from the results. Perry, who insists he has a great ground game in Iowa, appears to have recovered from his free fall and has seen his support nearly double over the last month. Paul’s 22%, meanwhile, is the best he’s done in an Iowa poll so far this year, as is Romney’s 24%.

But the real story here appears to be the sharp increase in Santorum’s support in the contest’s closing days. Note: the best the former senator has done in a DMR poll this year is 6%. Now, at least over the last couple of days, Santorum is at 21%.

Best of all, there are still two days of campaigning to go, and 41% of likely caucusgoers “say they could still be persuaded to change their minds.”

Update: Here’s some additional analysis of where things stand in Iowa, including a look at Romney’s underwhelming frontrunner status, and the possibility of Santorum benefiting from a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

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  • DJ on December 31, 2011 11:09 PM:

    One can picture President Obama in the White House thinking "Santorum might win Iowa? God couldn't love me that much."

  • exlibra on December 31, 2011 11:15 PM:

    Santorum surges from behind? Poor Iowa; I'm sure that's not what they expected when their court allowed gay marriage.

    [Perry] has seen his support nearly double over the last month.

    And all it took was a couple of weeks free of Republican debates, with Perry tripping over his own tongue :)

    Happy New Year, Steve! What on Earth are you doing, sitting at the 'puter this late? At your age, I was whooping it up; there was no champagne magnum enough to stop me from carousing.

  • Troll-Oped on December 31, 2011 11:46 PM:

    O yea! Mitt Rombot still the top dog?! No more clues necessary to see that the party of moral bankruptcy is headed the way of its dogmatic bullshit; insignificant obsolescence. Of course the Democrats still have plenty of chances to really screw things up! Happy 2012!

  • AK on January 01, 2012 10:33 AM:

    Appears that "none of the above" is still leading.

  • mg on January 01, 2012 11:27 AM:

    I've thought for the past week Santorum had a good shot at winning. I'm curious to see if Romney will beat Paul.

  • Drew Miller on January 01, 2012 5:37 PM:

    When Santorum surges from behind, you probably should have used the restroom first.

  • ezra abrams on January 02, 2012 3:27 PM:

    who cares about the iowa caucses ?
    why on earth does the media spend so much time on an almost non event ?
    120,000 people going out to vote, people who think it is ok for herman cain to say, i won't appoint a muslim, why isn't WM mainly going on about the easily available data which show that the winner of iowas wins the nomination only about 70% of the time.....
    Almost by definition, anyone focusing on Iowa is middlebrow

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