According the latest numbers from Public Policy Polling, Rep. Ron Paul is still edging out former Governor Mitt Romney for the lead in the polls leading up to the Iowa Caucus on January 3rd. According to the final Des Moines Register poll, Romney has the lead, with Paul in second and a surging former Senator Rick Santorum in third.
Yet, that is also not quite right. Read the poll, and you find that if only the last two days are counted, Santorum is in second, and Paul in third.
That poll can also be seen as off-base, as the Des Moines Register has it that 41% of caucus goers are still undecided on who will they vote for. Even Iowa congressman Steve King (R), a massive fixture in Iowa, hasn't settled on a candidate. He won't even endorse.
The move from Santorum, from all sources, appears to be real. 78% of Santorum voters are going to show up at the caucus come rain or shine, (or bitter cold) dwarfing the 56% of Paul supporters who say they will definitely show up. When asked about Santorum, blogger Stacy McCain - who has been traveling around with Santorum over the past few days - points to the fact that Santorum has done 350 events in the past 365 days. Santorum has also come out swinging, defending his decision to support former Senator Arlen Spector (a very interesting commentary) standing up to Romney criticism and even taking on Ann Coulter.
Craig Robinson, editor and publisher of The Iowa Republican.com, agrees with the Santorum surge, and also spells out a clear direction for Rep. Paul to move forward. Robinson believes Paul has the organizational power to take Iowa, and then be able to do to Romney in New Hampshire what he did to Gingrich in Iowa - run negative ads and keep up the pressure with even more negative ads, pushing down his poll numbers.
But Romney has what Gingrich does not have - lots of cash on hand to combat negative ads. Romney raised $14 million in the 3rd quarter alone. Further, Romney has the luxury of having a massive, commanding lead in New Hampshire, where he is polling at 41% with Paul and Gingrich tied around 11%. Former Ambassador Jon Huntsman - who slighted Iowa voters by not caring much about the Caucus and recently touting the old line about picking corn in Iowa, but picking Presidents in New Hampshire while being interviewed by a New Hampshire television station - is at 9%.
Being left out of the race are Rep. Michele Bachmann and Gov. Rick Perry. Robinson points out that Bachmann is the victim of her own bad campaigning. She is from Iowa, and has a long personal history with the state. But her style of reaching out to the voters is antithetical to the Iowa experience. She isn't overly accessible. She doesn't take many questions from the people. She's too insulated. Robinson also stated that since her win in the Iowa Straw Poll, Bachmann stumbled in her approach, and never recovered.
As for Perry, his excellent record as Governor aside, no one seems willing to 'forgive and forget;' Forgive the horrific debate performances, nor forget the horrific debate performances. Perry has been running a string of ads talking about faith, attempting to connect with the base of the party and turn people out on emotion. According to PPP, Perry is unchanged at 10%, behind Bachmann and only ahead of Huntsmann and somewhere out there former Governor Buddy Roemer.
There is no clear winner in Iowa, but there is a sense of who gets to move on in this contest. As they say here, it's about who will get their "ticket punched." From all accounts, there will be four tickets punched - Romney, Paul, Santorum and Gingrich. However, it's Iowa in 2012, and many don't believe any of the poll numbers. And many other voters still don't have a candidate just 24 hours out from the Caucuses. One great piece of advice I have received since I've been here - Count out no one.