PPP finds Ron Paul leading Iowa, Gingrich "imploding"

Maybe "Organize, organize, organize and then get hot at the end" isn't outdated Iowa caucus wisdom after all. Public Policy Polling's latest survey of Iowa Republicans finds Representative Ron Paul slightly ahead of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich dropped to third place.

UPDATE: The Republican polling firm Insider Advantage/Majority Opinion Research has also picked up on the Gingrich slide and Paul gain. Details are at the end of this post.

Public Policy Polling robocalled 597 "likely Republican caucus voters" between December 16 and 18, producing a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. Tom Jensen summarized the poll results here. The full questionnaire, results and cross-tabs are here. I am seeking more information about the likely voter screen. Question 1 asked respondents, "Do you plan to vote in the Republican caucus or the Democratic caucus, or are you not sure?"

Here are the toplines:

Ron Paul 23 percent

Mitt Romney 20 percent

Newt Gingrich 14 percent

Michele Bachmann 10 percent

Rick Perry 10 percent

Rick Santorum 10 percent

Someone else/not sure 7 percent

Jon Huntsman 4 percent

Gary Johnson 2 percent

The first thing that jumps out is the combined support for Perry, Bachmann and Santorum. All are trying to occupy the Mike Huckabee niche. If only one of them were in the race, I have to believe that candidate would be leading Iowa right now.

The second noteworthy point is the Gingrich plunge:

Gingrich has now seen a big drop in his Iowa standing two weeks in a row.  His share of the vote has gone from 27% to 22% to 14%.  And there's been a large drop in his personal favorability numbers as well from +31 (62/31) to +12 (52/40) to now [minus] 1 (46/47). Negative ads over the last few weeks have really chipped away at Gingrich's image as being a strong conservative- now only 36% of voters believe that he has 'strong principles,' while 43% think he does not.

I can hardly turn on the radio without hearing a commercial attacking Gingrich, and similar tv ads have been in heavy rotation in the Des Moines market.

Finally, Paul keeps creeping up in the Iowa polling. Jensen notes that his coalition is "unusual":

Among voters under 45 he's at 33% to 16% for Romney and 11% for Gingrich.  He's really going to need that younger than normal electorate because with seniors Romney's blowing him out 31-15 with Gingrich coming in 2nd at 18%. Paul is also cleaning up 35-14 with the 24% of voters who identify as either Democrats or independents. Romney is actually ahead 22-19 with GOP voters.

I've always assumed that Paul couldn't win Iowa, because his foreign policy views are untenable for the vast majority of Republicans. However, if a significant number of Democrats and independents show up for him on January 3, he could sneak ahead of a divided field.

Back to the latest PPP poll: 63 percent of respondents said they were "strongly committed" to their first choice, while 37 percent said they might support someone else on January 3. Here were the second choice numbers:

Someone else/not sure 18 percent

Bachmann 15 percent

Perry 14 percent

Gingrich 13 percent

Romney 12 percent

Paul 9 percent

Santorum 9 percent

Huntsman 7 percent

Johnson 1 percent

Will someone break out for a convincing win on January 3, or are we looking at a squeaker for Paul or Romney in the low to mid 20s? Spin your Iowa caucus scenarios in this thread.

P.S. Here are some other interesting poll findings:

Q12: Do you think that Barack Obama was born in the United States, or not?

He was 47 percent

He was not 31 percent

Not sure 21 percent

Q13: Did you watch the debate in Sioux City on Thursday night?

Yes 54 percent

No 46 percent

Q17: What is more important to you when deciding who[m] to vote for: a candidate's ability to beat Barack Obama in the general election, or their positions on the issues?

Ability to beat Obama 32 percent

Issue positions 56 percent

Not sure 12 percent

UPDATE: An Insider Advantage/Majority Opinion Research one-day poll of likely caucus-goers from December 12 showed the following toplines:

Gingrich 27 percent

Paul 16.5 percent

Perry 13 percent

Romney 12 percent

Bachmann 10 percent

Santorum 7 percent

Huntsman 4 percent

someone else 1.4 percent

no opinion 9 percent

The Insider Advantage one-day Iowa survey from December 18 revealed a big shift:

Paul 24 percent

Romney 18 percent

Perry 15.5 percent

Gingrich 13 percent

Bachmann 10 percent

Huntsman 4 percent

Santorum 3 percent

someone else 1 percent

no opinion 12 percent

I don't know anything about the sampling procedures or likely voter screen Insider Advantage used for those polls.

  • PPP's write-up

    reads like my earlier comments.

    I really see this as everything coming up roses for Romney, who I believe will be the nominee. It's a win-win, because second best if he does not win is Paul winning.

    First of all, Paul was crazy like a fox in the last debate. While they were all huffing and puffing at TIR, his "to the left of Obama" clearly was not meant for them. He knows Dems are bored w/ nothing better to do and independents will participate in the competitive caucus. Romney is beating him with Republicans.

    Here's why this is good for Romney:

    1. If Paul wins, it's a win that's easy to spin away. They'll say Republicans were divided over so many candidates, but now the field is smaller. They'll say the Dems were meddling. And they'll say, probably correctly, that Paul can't hold all of his voters in a GE because fundamentally, it's the Obama coalition.

    As long as Romney fares better than Newt in IA, Paul has served his purpose.

    2. Still have 16 days to go. If somebody wants to spend the money, there's more than a few things in Paul's past that would turn off younger voters and perhaps some independents/Dems. In terms of traditional vetting, he's had a free ride.

    3. There will probably be a push to coalesce around Romney, so heck, Ron Paul may even help him to win outright. I would expect the Romney people to to really lean on "do you want Ron Paul, then?"

    4. Paul still needs to get his young voters out while Romney's got the seniors.

    The DMR dream is Romney winning, followed by RP. Cake and eat it too. Endorsed the winner! Organization still counts in Iowa!

    And of course, Romney would be all smiles on caucus night. Iowa has redeemed itself! I {{heart}} the Iowa caucus! On to New Hampshire!

    SPECIAL BONUS: what a pickle for BVP! Just when he's about to sell his soul to Newt, Newt plummets in the polling! Not fair!

    • I love the BVP angle

      He can't get away with endorsing Gingrich. He "should" go with Santorum or Bachmann, but maybe he'll be inspired by Perry creeping up in a couple of polls and try to make him more viable.

  • Sshhh,

    Is anyone noticing the silence surrounding The Kingdom of Bob VanderPliant?

    Monday has now come and gone with no  beknighting ceremony in the chapel.

    • his options are terrible

      and it's fun to watch him stew. I'm sure if he had it to do over again he wouldn't do so much to build up his group's endorsement.

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