Believe it or not, the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination is already underway in Iowa. Potential candidates like Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich are already making frequent visits to the state that hosts the First-In-The-Nation Caucuses.
While most people, including most Iowans, think that there is plenty of time before the 2012 presidential campaign will be in full swing, the clock is already counting down to caucus day 2012. What these candidates realize that most people don’t comprehend yet is that the first contest is the Iowa Straw Poll, which is now less than a year away.
The Iowa Straw Poll is an event sponsored by the Republican Party of Iowa and has historically winnowed the field the presidential candidates the summer before the actual nominating process begins. That means that one year from now, the presidential field will probably contract, just like it did in 2007, 1999, and 1996.
With all of that in mind, TheIowaRepublican.com polled 399 Iowa Republicans who consider themselves likely voters. We wanted to see what they think about the potential field of candidates as the 2012 presidential nomination gets underway.
The poll shows that the 2012 contest is going to begin right where the 2008 Iowa Caucuses left off, with Mike Huckabee leading Mitt Romney. Huckabee comes out on top of the poll garnering 22 percent, Romney finishes second with 18 percent, and Newt Gingrich finishes surprisingly well with 14 percent in third place. Sarah Palin finishes a disappointing fourth with 11 percent. Texas Congressman Ron Paul garnered 5 percent, while Pawlenty, and South Dakota Senator John Thune each received 1 percent.
Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum garnered support in the poll but it did not surpass the one percent threshold. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and Texas Governor Rick Perry did not register any support in the poll. Twenty three percent of those surveyed remain undecided. Huckabee and Romney’s strength in the poll is expected as both were able to generate a lot of interest with their 2008 campaigns. Obviously, many people remain loyal to the candidates they supported in 2008.
Romney has already sent signals that he will likely run again in 2012. His leadership PAC has raised more money than any other potential candidate, and he continues to travel the county. While he is expected to be the frontrunner nationally, Huckabee will be the frontrunner in Iowa if he decides to make another try for the Republican nomination.
If there is a surprise in the poll, it’s the strength of Newt Gingrich. Gingrich has been a frequent visitor to Iowa over the past decade. He has headlined events for the Republican Party of Iowa, various political candidates, and held activist workshops across the state. His affection for and understanding of Iowa will definitely be an asset should he seek the Republican nomination.
Gingrich, who is also frequent guest on FOX News, is also a celebrity and many credit him for the Republican Revolution of 1994, which makes him different from Huckabee and Palin, the two other FOX celebrities that are potential 2012 candidates.
While Gingrich’s celebrity and investment in Iowa could payoff if he does indeed run, he will also have to deal with having his record and previous political activities scrutinized by his opponents. That is something that he hasn’t had to deal with since giving up the speakership in 1999.
Another thing that Gingrich will have to overcome is his age. Gingrich will be 69 in 2012, the same age that Ronald Reagan was when he was elected in 1980. Luckily for Gingrich, age has become less of a factor recently. (Both Ron Paul and John McCain were older in 2008 than Gingrich will be in 2012),
Sarah Palin became an instant celebrity after being named John McCain’s running mate in 2008. Palin’s brand of common sense conservatism should play well with Iowa caucuses goers, but she has yet to make her presence known in the state. People tend to either love Palin or hate her, so she is sure to garner a lot of attention in Iowa if she does decide to run.
Ron Paul has also increased his presence in Iowa since the 2008 caucuses. Paul surprised many when he garnered 10% of the vote in the 2008 caucuses. With an existing campaign apparatus to utilize to his benefit and a nationwide fundraising base, Paul will be a major factor in 2012.
Pawlenty, Thune, Santorum and the others should all realize that they occupy the same spot in the poll that Huckabee found himself in throughout much of 2007. In Iowa, anyone can emerge if they can make a connection with caucuses goers and have a message that resonates. Caucuses campaigns are a war of attrition. You have to be good enough to stick around so you are in the game in the fall leading up to the caucuses. Huckabee was able to accomplish that, and he saw his organization and fundraising ability skyrocket.
With 23 percent of the field undecided, there is plenty of room for other candidates to immerge or gain support as they begin introducing themselves to Iowans. It is also likely that that the field of candidates will change before next summer. For example, a number of people don’t expect Huckabee and Palin to actually run in 2012. With that in mind, TheIowaRepublican.com polled the field without them. We will disclose those numbers on Wednesday.
About the poll:
TheIowaRepublican.com commissioned the poll in conjunction with Concordia Group LLC, an Iowa based public affairs company. The poll surveyed 399 Republican likely voters across the state and has a margin of error of 4.91%. The poll was conducted by Voter Consumer Research, a highly respected polling firm based in Washington D.C. All interviews were conducted via telephone with trained interviewers at Voter/Consumer Research’s phone center in Houston, Texas, between July 25th and July 28th.
Photos by Dave Davidson
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