Kevin Glass
Iowa voters head for their caucuses tomorow, and a new Public Policy Polling poll released shows three Republicans within two percenatge points of each other. PPP has Ron Paul at 20%, Mitt Romney at 19% and Rick Santorum at 18%.

What's more, PPP finds underlying trends favoring Rick Santorum.

Santorum's net favorability of 60/30 makes him easily the most popular candidate in the field. No one else's favorability exceeds 52%. He may also have more room to grow in the final 48 hours of the campaign than the other front runners: 14% of voters say he's their second choice to 11% for Romney and only 8% for Paul. Santorum's taken the lead with two key groups of Republican voters: with Tea Partiers he's at 23% to 18% for Gingrich, 16% for Paul, 15% for Bachmann, and only 12% for Romney. And with Evangelicals he's at 24% to 16% for Gingrich, and 15% for Paul and Romney.

For his part, new top-tier candidate Santorum is now playing the expectations game. With all the media attention that's focused on his rise recently, he's still been a universal third place in the polls, and still unlikely to finish in first. He says he's been happy merely with his momentum in the last two weeks.

On a "Meet the Press" interview yesterday, Santorum was asked about his need to win Iowa, and responded "That's really pretty funny, actually, because ten days ago, I was at 5% and every question I got was, 'Why don't you pack it up, why don't you endorse another candidate?' And now ten days later you're saying, oh, you got to win in order to meet - exceed expectations. Look, we feel very good about the way things are going on the ground."

Santorum still has a pretty large mountain to climb to the Republican nomination if he wins Iowa. The last few days, however, Iowa voters have been quite friendly in giving his campaign a powerful boost. Tuesday will see if he can capitalize on that, and make something more of it going forward.

Kevin Glass

Kevin Glass is Director of Policy and Outreach at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity