UPDATE: Three more polls show Gingrich leading in Iowa

Who would have believed it back when Greg Ganske seemed like Newt Gingrich's last friend left in Iowa? Within the last ten days, five six separate pollsters have released surveys showing former the House speaker with a clear lead among likely Republican caucus-goers.

Bleeding Heartland discussed the first three polls to show Gingrich ahead here. On December 5, the Washington Post reported results from a Washington Post/ABC News poll of 858 "potential Iowa Republican caucus-goers" and 356 "likely voters" conducted by Abt-SRBI between November 30 and December 4. Among "potential caucus-goers," Gingrich led with 28 percent support, followed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (18 percent), Representative Ron Paul (16 percent), Texas Governor Rick Perry (12 percent), Representative Michele Bachmann (10 percent), former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (4 percent) and Jon Huntsman (2 percent). This pollster reallocated Herman Cain supporters "based on their second choice" but didn't indicate how many people named Cain as a first choice.

Gingrich had an even bigger lead among "likely caucus-goers" in the Washington Post/ABC News poll: 33 percent for Gingrich, followed by Romney and Paul (18 percent each), Perry (11 percent), Bachmann (8 percent), Santorum (7 percent) and Huntsman (2 percent).

Although a majority of respondents said they could change their minds before caucus night, Gingrich is clearly in the strongest position.

This year's caucus campaign is weird on many levels, but one particularly strange aspect is that organization and time spent by the presidential candidates in Iowa seem disconnected from voter preferences. Question 14 in the Washington Post/ABC poll asked whether respondents had "personally been contacted by a representative of any of the campaigns, either by phone or in-person, asking you for your support, or not." Gingrich had some of the lowest numbers on that table, which isn't surprising considering his whole Iowa staff walked out on him this summer.

Question 15 asked whether respondents had watched any of the Republican presidential debates. 53 percent of the "potential caucus-goer" sample and 68 percent of the "likely caucus-goer" sample said they have watched at least one debate. That probably helped Gingrich take a lead in Iowa. Both the potential and likely voter groups cited Gingrich's political experience as a "major reason to support" him.

Public Policy Polling surveyed 572 "likely Iowa Republican voters" between December 3 and 5. Full results with cross-tabs are here (pdf). Gingrich led with 27 percent support, followed by Paul (18 percent), Romney (16 percent), Bachmann (13 percent), Perry (9 percent), Santorum (6 percent), Huntsman (4 percent) and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson (1 percent). From the polling memo:

Gingrich has gained 19 points since PPP's last poll of the race in early October. Also showing momentum are Paul whose support is up 8% and Bachmann whose support is up 5%. Romney has dropped 6 points since then with the other candidates mostly standing in place.

Gingrich's rise to the top is being fueled by strong support from seniors and the Tea Party. With voters over 65 he's at 37% leading Romney's 18% and Paul's 11% by 19 and 26 points respectively. With Tea Party voters Gingrich is at 35% with Bachmann actually coming in at second with 23%, Paul in third at 14%, and Romney all the way back at just 4%.

Paul's benefiting from the lack of action on the Democratic side this year. 20% of likely caucus goers are either Democrats or independents and with them he's leading the way with 28% to 18% for Gingrich and 13% for Romney and Bachmann. He's also very strong with younger voters, getting 23% with those under 45 to 21% for Gingrich, 16% for Bachmann, and 15% for Romney.

When PPP polled Iowa for the first time this year in January 57% of voters had a favorable opinion of Romney to 26% with an unfavorable one. Now he's at only 49/45, representing a 27 point decline in his net favorability over the course of the year.

I know at least one Democrat in my precinct who plans to cross the line for Paul. I wonder how many people will change their party registration on January 3 in order to participate.

I still can't get over the fact that Gingrich came back from the dead. His own staffers thought his lazy approach to campaigning here left "no path" to a strong showing in the Ames straw poll, let alone the caucuses. But leading among senior citizens and tea party voters is a great place to be four weeks before the caucuses.

Two debates will be held in Iowa during the coming week. ABC News, WOI-TV, Yahoo!, the Des Moines Register and the Republican Party of Iowa are organizing a December 10 debate in Des Moines. On December 15, Fox News and the Iowa GOP will host a debate in Sioux City. One or more candidates will have to go after Gingrich during those debates. There's time for him to implode before the caucuses, but fortunately for him, the holiday season might mitigate any impact of a shaky debate performance.

Any comments about the Republican presidential race are welcome in this thread.

P.S.-I got a kick out of this video featuring Gingrich's appearance in a 1984 Canadian "mockumentary" imagining a sequence of events that could spark a nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Gingrich comes on around the 6:15 mark:

UPDATE: CBS News and the New York Times also conducted an Iowa poll from November 30 to December 5. Gingrich led with 31 percent support, followed by Romney (17 percent), Paul (16 percent), Perry (11 percent), Bachmann (9 percent), Santorum (4 percent) and Huntsman (1 percent). The polling memo is here (pdf).

Meanwhile, Perry is throwing a hail-Mary pass, Rebecca Kaplan reports for CBS:

According to a source with knowledge of the plans, the [Perry] campaign has already spent more than $1.2 million on Iowa television ads and more spending is planned. The commercials will run from now until the first votes are casts in next year's presidential primary season.

A pro-Perry Super PAC, Make Us Great Again, is also in the process of placing orders, though it was not immediately clear how much the Super PAC is spending. The group spent about $280,000 last week to run ads in Iowa and South Carolina, which holds its primary Jan. 21.

I've seen Perry's "faith" ad several times. I like that even GOP caucus-goers aren't buying the ridiculous straw man "Some liberals say they faith is a sign of weakness, but they're wrong" routine.

SECOND UPDATE: Philip Brasher wrote a good piece for the Des Moines Registeron Gingrich's role in passing the 1996 farm bill. I recommend reading the whole article, but here's an excerpt:

The Freedom to Farm policy "grew out of the belief that we were going to get the government out of agriculture," said Dan Glickman, who was President Bill Clinton's agriculture secretary at the time. "It turned out we didn't get the government out of agriculture at all."

Gingrich's campaign staff did not respond to requests for comment.

The policy's chief author, Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican who was then chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said Gingrich played a major role in passing the bill.

"We had problem after problem after problem" winning passage, "and each and every time he was helpful," he said.

Gingrich's aid included first intervening with Republican conservatives to soften the cuts that would have to be made in farm spending and then to force the bill through the House when Roberts couldn't get sufficient support in his committee.

"On every issue that I went to him with I was successful," Roberts said. Gingrich "would call in all of the participants and say, 'I side with Congressman Roberts.' I really appreciated that."

Key to bill: Fixed, annual payments

The Freedom to Farm bill upended a Depression-era system of subsidies that provided payments to farmers only when commodity prices dropped and sought to manage grain supplies through limits on how much farmers could grow.

The key feature of the new bill: fixed, annual payments that would go to every farmer and landowner with a history of growing subsidized crops such as corn and wheat. The payments were intended to be temporary and serve as a bridge to get farmers where they could survive without direct subsidies.

A farm bill drafted this fall by leaders of the congressional agricultural committees would scrap the direct payments and shift the money back into new forms of subsidies that would be tied once again to swings in commodity prices.

  • Romney

    particularly strange aspect is that organization and time spent by the presidential candidates in Iowa seem disconnected from voter preferences.

    got the ball rolling. He spent all kinds of time and money last go round, including the Straw Poll, just to see it go up in smoke at the end, so he blew off campaigning in earnest this time. This allowed anti-Romneys (Perry, Newt) to do the same. Huntsman also announced he was blowing off Iowa.

    The splintering of the socon vote. Headliners like Romney, Newt and Cain just aren't the real deal, but they all get or got a look from the more pragmatic socons, leaving the "pure" a choice of Bachmann, Santorum or Perry. No reason to specifically court this voter segment if it's all over the map. Plus, the associated costs: creepy marriage pledges & hunkering down in rural IA just aren't worth it.

    Perry's late entry - completely trashed Bachmann's organizational efforts, and for all intents and purposes, the GOP Straw Poll is dead.

    Prominent IA businessmen searching for an anti-Romney almost up to the first snow. Added to the volatility, which signaled that it's more profitable to try and catch a wave instead of "slow and steady wins the race."

    The real story, though, is the decline of rural Iowa. Where did most of the IWD offices close? For which school districts is zero allowable growth truly catastrophic? Where did incumbents get paired in redistricting? The whole point of organizational strength is to have a presence in as many small and medium towns as possible, but at some point, it is no longer cost effective if the votes aren't there. It's more cost-effective to pitch to suburban voters in DSM, Cedar Rapids via cheap coverage mass media + throw in a few trips to Council Bluffs and Sioux City.

    Every two years, the caucus delegate allocation shifts to metro areas for the Dems. It's the fixed delegate strength assigned to rural precincts that still keeps the non-metro areas afloat in the process but the writing is on the wall here as well. National popular vote fans should take note.

    Oddly enough, Ron Paul can save the traditional caucus. He built on his '08 organization, which makes him the exception, not the rule. Should he win, expect a flood of "organization still counts" columns.

    • Just four counties

      Polk/Dallas

      Linn/Johnson

      yield 25% of registered Republicans. That doesn't include all of the DSM metro area.

      Also should have mentioned -- Newt will always be a hero for "Contract w/ America." He transcends retail politics. He is also seen as a warrior who can stick it to BO, which is why so many Republicans respond that he is more capable of beating Obama despite evidence to the contrary.

    • there's no saving the straw poll

      that's for sure.

      Hard to believe how ineffective the Iowa social conservative leaders look just a year after the anti-retention vote.

    • Every Vote Should Count

      Are you defending the electoral college here?  

      • Most issues

        have legitimate arguments for and against.

        Taking a position on reforming the electoral college was not on my mind. I am agnostic as I see the merits of arguments made on both sides.

        It is true that emerging sectionalism is a concern of those who prefer to maintain the current system. My observation in the comment refers to the long-standing claim that Iowa's caucus process (esp Dem) requires a distribution of support, hence the emphasis on organization. Obviously that's changing, and yes, a NPV-like reform may result in similar patterns nationally. I don't see any reason to put heads in the sand concerning consequences of actions. I haven't lived a charmed life of perfect solutions.

  • Another Perry ad...

    ...notes we have gays in the military but not prayer in school. What does one have to do with the other?  That's ranging pretty far afield....

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