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December 31st, 2011
 

Romney Leads Des Moines Register Poll – Confirms Santorum Surge is Real

After spending most of the last year avoiding Iowa and downplaying the significance of the Iowa Caucuses, Mitt Romney leads the field in the final major poll before caucus day.  Even though Romney avoided Iowa and one of his aides told TheIowaRepublican.com in late November that Romney has a path to the nomination without Iowa and thus he has no expectations here, Romney is now committed to winning Iowa, and the polls show that he should do just that.

Romney leads the newest Des Moines Register Iowa Poll with the support of 24 percent of respondents.  Just two points behind Romney is Ron Paul at 22 percent, but the real story is Rick Santorum, who once again finds himself in third place all by himself with 15 percent.  The reason why Santorum is the story is because the Register explained that over the last two days that the poll was in the field, Santorum had actually surpassed Paul, and was in second place with 22 percent, while Paul’s support slipped to 18 percent during that later time frame.

The poll does more than just validate the Santorum surge that Iowans and the rest of the country have witnessed over the last week.  Santorum and his momentum is now the big story from the poll, not Romney. The Register’s pollster, J. Ann Selzer was quoted in the paper saying, “Momentum’s name is Rick Santorum.” The Santorum campaign should send her a gift of appreciation because she just gave Santorum supporters all the motivation they could ever need.

Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry were in fourth and fifth place.  Gingrich garnered the support of 12 percent of respondents.  Perry got 11 percent, a number he seems to be stuck at.  Bachmann trailed in sixth place with seven percent.  The poll probably doesn’t reflect any damage that was done to her campaign following the high-profile departure of two key staffers and the drama that followed and continues to linger.

In a caucus contest that has been more turbulent and unpredictable than most, the results of the final Des Moines Register Poll may provide more than an indication of what might happen on Tuesday night at the caucuses.  With many voters still wrestling with whom to support, the Register poll might end up serving as the final tiebreaker, and not just for the candidate at the top of the poll. The poll showed that 41 percent said they could still change their minds.

That’s good news for Santorum who can continue to make the case that conservatives are coalescing around his campaign, but it’s going to be difficult for Gingrich and Perry who are stuck in a virtual tie.  Had one of them been able to show that they are separating from the other, it could have helped one of them gain some much needed momentum.  Instead it seems like they are going to be battling for forth and fifth place.

While the poll is great news for Mitt Romney, it’s bitter sweet for both him and Ron Paul.  It seems that no matter what they do, they are unable to break the 25 percent threshold.  Some had begun to suggest that Romney was pulling away from the field in Iowa, but that’s simply not the case.  The poll shows both Romney and Paul are stagnate, while Santorum has real momentum.  If that trend holds true on caucus day, Santorum is going to win the Iowa Caucuses, not just do well by beating expectations.

In the final Register Poll in 2008, pollster Ann Selzer pretty much nailed what the final results ended up being.  The poll showed Huckabee leading Romney by six points, he won by nine.  Huckabee ended up two points higher and Romney was one point lower than the Register’s finding.  The number that was the most off was Fred Thompson’s.  He out-performed the poll by four points and Giuliani underperformed by almost two points.

While the Register was as accurate as one can be in 2008 caucuses, the Register poll was way off in the last Republican gubernatorial primary.  The Register Poll showed Terry Branstad crushing Bob Vander Plaats by 19 percent.  On election night, Branstad won, but only by 10 points.  This is important to note because it may suggest that the Register poll has a difficult time picking up intense pockets of rural support, which Vander Plaats had in 2010, and social conservative candidates may have in the caucuses.  If that’s the case again, it benefits Santorum more than any other candidate.

In the last ten days, Santorum has successfully distanced himself from the rest of the conservative field.  In doing so, he has made himself the conservative alternative to Romney.  As we have seen throughout the entire cycle, this is the space you want to occupy when people go to cast their votes.  Timing is everything in politics, and while one could say Santorum is lucky, he also worked very hard to be in the position in which he finds himself.

 

Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson serves as the founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheIowaRepublican.com. Prior to founding Iowa's largest conservative news site, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa during the 2008 Iowa Caucuses. In that capacity, Robinson planned and organized the largest political event in 2007, the Iowa Straw Poll, in Ames, Iowa. Robinson also organized the 2008 Republican caucuses in Iowa, and was later dispatched to Nevada to help with the caucuses there. Robinson cut his teeth in Iowa politics during the 2000 caucus campaign of businessman Steve Forbes and has been involved with most major campaigns in the state since then. His extensive political background and rolodex give him a unique perspective from which to monitor the political pulse of Iowa.




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