Rich Galen
Every four years every reporter covering politics becomes an avid reader of one newspaper: The Des Moines Register. That also leads to a quadrennial discussion as to whether Iowa and New Hampshire have too much say in who the delegates to the two major party conventions will ultimately pick to be their nominees.

Nevertheless, Iowa and New Hampshire are going to be at least interesting again this year, if not, again this year, determinative.

The Register, as it's known to one and all, has long been the dominant paper in Iowa, and is THE source for inside info on who's up, who's down, who's in and who's out when it comes to Presidential politics.

The Register is the only paper with the resources to run state-wide polls of Hawkeyes to find out what their thinking about the candidates who are running for their parties' presidential nomination.

The paper released the results of the first Iowa Poll of this cycle since the GOP field has begun to take shape.

You've seen the headline numbers:

Romney 23%
Bachmann 22%
Cain 10%
Everyone else < 9%

If you add first choice and second choice, the numbers become even more interesting:

Bachmann 22% 1st choice; 28% 2nd = 50%
Romney 23 + 10 = 33%
Cain 10 + 10 = 20%
Paul 7 + 12 = 19%

Tim Pawlenty has been declared the loser in this poll because he was the first choice of only 6 percent of those polled (behind Gingrich and Paul who were tied at 7%). But Pawlenty was the second choice of 12% of those polled so his first-plus-second place score is 18 percent essentially tied with Ron Paul.

In fact, Pawlenty and Paul got the highest second choice score of any of the candidates with the exception of Michelle Bachmann, so the reports of the death of the Pawlenty campaign may be a bit premature.

If Iowans are representative of any Republicans east of the Mississippi or west of the Missouri Rivers a very important question was: "Regardless of whom you support now, do you think there is at least one Republican candidate in the field who can defeat Barack Obama?"

The answer? 86 percent of those polled believe Obama is beatable by at least one of the GOP candidates already in the field.

On the fiscal v social conservative axis, the poll found that 62 percent of Iowa Republicans think being a fiscal conservative is most important, while only 20 percent believe being a social conservative is more important.

In spite of that, 58 percent said that it would be a "deal killer" if a candidate "Supports civil unions for gay and lesbian couples" which is interesting in that same-sex marriages are already legal in Iowa.

Last cycle there was no incumbent and no heir-apparent on either side.

In the May 2007 Iowa Poll, Romney was leading with 30%, John McCain came in at 18% essentially tied with Rudy Guiliani who was at 17%. Mike Huckabee trailed the field at only 4 percent at this point four years ago.

In the October, 2007 Iowa poll, Hillary Clinton led with 29% with John Edwards (23%) and Barack Obama (22%) essentially tied for second. In the poll released just prior to the actual caucuses in January 2008, the Register poll found Barack Obama (32%) leading Hillary Clinton (25%) and John Edwards (24%).

On the Republican side, that same poll released in December 2007, showed Mike Huckabee leading Mitt Romney 32% to 26%. John McCain came in third at 13% with Ron Paul and Fred Thompson tied at 9%.

When actual Iowans went to their caucuses Obama won with 940 votes (37.6% of the total) with Edwards edging out Clinton by seven - 7 - votes 744 to 737 or 29.7% to 29.5%.

On the GOP side Mike Huckabee cruised to a victory with 34.4% to second place finisher, Mitt Romney's 25.2 percent. Fred Thomason and John McCain tied for third with just over 13%.

In 2004, John Kerry won the Iowa Caucuses and went on to be the Democratic nominee, Four years earlier, when Republicans had a contested primary, George W. Bush won the caucuses won the nomination and the Presidency.

So is Iowa predictive of the ultimate winner? Well, yes and no.


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.