Former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain and Representative Ron Paul have pushed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney into third place in a new Iowa Republican poll for Iowa State University, the Cedar Rapids Gazette and KCRG TV. However, less than two months before the Iowa caucuses, the majority of likely participants are still not committed to any candidate.
UPDATE: Now Rasmussen has a new Iowa poll showing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich way ahead among likely caucus-goers, followed by Romney and Cain. Details are below.
James Q. Lynch reported the toplines today:
For the record, Herman Cain leads the field with the support of 24.5 percent of 1,256 registered Iowa voters polled. Texas Rep. Ron Paul follows with 20.4 percent and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is running third at 16.3 percent.
"Can't decide" polled 8.1 percent - more than Texas Gov. Rick Perry (7.9 percent), Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachman (7.6 percent), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (4.8 percent) and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (4.7 percent). Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has not campaigned in Iowa, received no support. "Other" polled 5.8 percent. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent.
"My take away from these results is that voters are still really unsure of whom they will support," added Dave Peterson, interim director of the Harkin Institute of Public Policy at ISU and associate professor of political science, who also assisted with the poll. "Over half of the people are still trying to decide, and another third are merely leaning toward a candidate. When asked, people will express a preference for one candidate, but they also will admit that this is a weak attitude."
Telephone interviewers surveyed 979 registered Republicans and 277 registered independents in Iowa between November 1 and 13. The 377 respondents who said they definitely or probably would attend the 2012 Iowa caucuses comprised the likely voter sample. Thirteen days is an unusually long time for a poll to be in the field. I wonder if Cain polled lower toward the end of that time span, when the sexual harassment allegations surrounding him became a major media story.
As far as I know, this poll measured lower support for Romney than any other public survey in Iowa this year. Another poll released this week, conducted by Selzer and Co for Bloomberg, put Romney in second place but contained other discouraging news for him:
58 percent of Iowa voters said they would rule out voting for a candidate if he had favored a mandate to buy health insurance. That's higher than the percentage of Iowa Republicans who would rule out voting for a candidate who's been married three times and has had extramarital affairs (48 percent), or a candidate who has supported the DREAM Act (42 percent) or someone who has worked for the Obama administration (40 percent).
That puts a pretty hard ceiling on the level of support Romney can achieve. [...]
The question Romney's campaign is wrestling with is, can anyone else beat 25 to 30 percent?
Paul has to be thrilled to crack 20 percent in the latest Iowa poll after registering 19 percent support in the Selzer poll. I have assumed that Paul's views on foreign and military policy put his ceiling at around 15 percent support, but perhaps he will be able to win over more Republicans not satisfied with any of the front-runners.
The ISU/Gazette/KCRG poll didn't capture the Gingrich surge that was apparent in the Selzer poll. Maybe that means Gingrich came on particularly strong during the past week, or maybe it means that his 17 percent support among Selzer's Iowa respondents was a fluke.
In other Iowa caucus news, the Des Moines Register has canceled the debate it planned to co-host with Iowa Public Television on December 19. Instead, the Register will partner with others for the December 10 debate in Des Moines. Politics editor Carol Hunter writes in today's newspaper,
Laura Hollingsworth, president and publisher of the Register, said the decision was made with the best interests of Iowans in mind.
"The Des Moines Register has convened presidential candidates for debates since 1980," Hollingsworth said. "This year, we're pleased to partner on this event with ABC News, WOI-TV in Des Moines, Yahoo! and the Republican Party of Iowa so that we can continue our focus on the most meaningful issues that Iowans care about and share them with the entire nation. This debate is three short weeks before the Iowa caucuses. It will be an important time for Iowans to be making important decisions, and we are pleased to help lead them."
Matt Strawn, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, said, "This is a win-win agreement as it is in the best interest of our Republican presidential candidates and Iowa's Republican caucusgoers. First, the remaining nationally televised debates will assist our candidates in reaching as wide an audience as possible in the final weeks leading up to the Jan. 3 caucuses. Second, reducing the number of Iowa debates provides our candidates more time to engage in the personal, retail politicking with voters that is the hallmark of the Iowa caucuses."
Rick Green, editor of the Register, said he had conducted discussions with ABC and the Republican Party of Iowa to assure the independence of the debate. The party's role is to assist with lining up candidates and to handle logistics such as ticketing. The party will not review questions or in any other way influence the content of the debate, Green said.
Some of the debate questions will be provided by the Register's political reporting staff.
That's quite a status drop for the Des Moines Register. Instead of having their staff moderate the last presidential debate before the Iowa caucuses, Register reporters will submit a few questions for Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos to ask.
Hunter's story didn't mention recent efforts by some Iowa Republican county leaders to persuade presidential candidates to skip the Des Moines Register debate. I wonder whether any of the leading contenders told the newspaper's editors that they were leaning against participating on December 19.
The final Republican debate in Iowa will now be the December 15 event in Sioux City, to be hosted by Fox News and the Iowa GOP.
Any comments about the Republican presidential race are welcome in this thread.
UPDATE: Rasmussen Reports released a new Iowa survey today. This one-day automated telephone poll was conducted on November 15. Click here to view the question wording and order. Rasmussen reports a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent, but I don't see details about the sample size or likely voter screen.
Toplines from the Rasmussen poll:
Gingrich 32 percent
Romney 19 percent
Cain 13 percent
Paul 10 percent
Bachmann 6 percent
Perry 6 percent
Santorum 5 percent
Huntsman 2 percent
some other candidate 1 percent
undecided 6 percent
Thirty-eight percent (38%) of Iowa GOP caucus voters are now certain of their vote and don't expect to change their minds, up from 32% in mid-October. Of those voters who are certain, 30% pick Gingrich, 21% prefer Romney, 16% like Cain and 13% support Paul.
The one clear message from recent polls is that no one has any idea who's going to win the Iowa caucuses. I find it hard to believe that Gingrich is so far ahead of the pack, but that's just a guess. He is hiring back two staffers who quit working for him this summer: Craig Schoenfeld and Katie Koberg. For whatever reason, they believe a presidential campaign that's still deeply in debt will be able to pay them for organizing work between now and January 3.
SECOND UPDATE: Iowa State University political science professor Dave Peterson, who was involved with the ISU/Gazette/KCRG poll, told Radio Iowa today,
"[Ron Paul] is more of a front-runner than I think he gets credit for. I think he probably under-polls," Peterson says. "Given what we know about polling, his supporters are younger, his supporters are more likely to reply on a cell phone. He's probably going to perform better than his polling suggests."