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Ron Paul Appears to be Iowa Front-Runner According to Latest Poll Data

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While the mainstream media will certainly try to spin the latest Bloomberg poll, which shows that Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich are in a statistical dead heat in Iowa, the real takeaway is that Congressman Paul appears to be the front-runner in the state. The poll, which was conducted by Selzer & Co. for Bloomberg, showed 20 percent of likely caucus attendees support Herman Cain, 19 percent favor Paul, 18 percent are leaning towards Romney and 17 percent support Newt Gingrich.

When you dig down deeper into the numbers, however, it becomes obvious that this poll is a very good indication that Ron Paul, for now, is the man to beat in the Iowa caucuses. First, Herman Cain's support has been waning in the wake of sexual harassment allegations which have been lodged against him by four different women.

Bloomberg reports that, "Support for Cain, 65, a former businessman who has been accused of sexually harassing four women in the 1990s, has dipped in Iowa by three percentage points since a similar survey done Oct. 23-26 by the Des Moines Register. In the Bloomberg poll, 29 percent of likely caucus participants say they believe Cain's denials, while 37 percent are waiting for more information. More than a quarter are skeptical of his answers to the harassment allegations or don't believe him."

While Cain is maintaining a 1 percentage point lead over Paul despite these sexual harassment allegations, and the media coverage surrounding them, it is clear that they are having at least a modest, detrimental effect on his campaign in Iowa.

The key finding of the Bloomberg poll, which suggests that Ron Paul is the real front-runner in Iowa, is the quality of his support, which exceeds all of the other candidates by a wide margin. Bloomberg reports, "There's good news in the poll for Paul, 76, a Texas congressman who has attracted ardent supporters. Among likely caucus-goers who say their minds are made up, Paul leads with 32 percent, followed by Romney at 25 percent and Gingrich, a former House speaker, at 17 percent."

In a race this close, and trailing the embattled Cain by only one percentage point, this type of loyal support vaults Paul into the lead when looking at the data from a pragmatic viewpoint. Bloomberg acknowledges this fact, writing, "Paul's support is more solidified than his rivals, while Cain's is softer." Dr. Paul is also capitalizing on significant loyalty from 2008 caucus goers, with 69% of them still with him now.

The fact of the matter is that the other candidates simply do not have anywhere near the level of loyalty within their Iowa constituencies as Paul does. In fact, it seems possible that this race could become a landslide if current trends in Iowa hold steady. Considering that 60 percent of respondents said that they could still be persuaded to back someone other than their current top choice, and with 10 percent still undecided, Dr. Paul's organizational edge, combined with the loyalty of his current supporters, gives him a strong advantage over opponents with regard to shoring up these votes.

Paul's campaign is leading Iowa in voter contact, with around two thirds of poll respondents saying they've heard from his campaign. The next most active campaign in the state is Michele Bachmann's, with 61 percent of respondents saying they have been contacted by her supporters. What is truly stunning, however, is the relative ineffectiveness of these efforts. Bachmann, despite all of her best attempts, is polling at just 6 percent in the state, and will likely be an early dropout from the race due to weak support in Iowa.

Paul, on the other hand, has been able to raise money effortlessly, which will allow him to stay in the race until the end, and has been able to convert his active grassroots campaign in Iowa into widespread support. Rick Perry, who was a front-runner upon entering the race, has absolutely imploded in recent weeks and appears to have little to no chance of recovering in Iowa or nationally. Only 7 percent of those polled by Bloomberg in Iowa support the Texas governor.

The other two candidates that are polling in the top four along with Cain and Paul, are benefiting from their high profiles, but are not commanding a great deal of loyalty at this point. Both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have steep hurdles to overcome if they are going to win the state according to Bloomberg.

Gingrich, who has been performing well at debates, could be compromised by the perception that he has loose ethics and morals. Bloomberg notes that "almost half of respondents say they would rule out a candidate who has been married three times and had an extramarital affair." Gingrich is on his third marriage, has admitted to infidelity, and has also been brought up on ethics violations in the House of Representatives.

In 1997 the House voted 395 to 28 to reprimand Gingrich on these violations. Despite his strong performance, these issues, and voters' perception of them, likely preclude Gingrich from taking the Iowa caucuses. Romney, appears to be very vulnerable in the state over his backing of a health insurance mandate in Massachusetts when he was governor. A full 58 percent of likely caucus goers said that support of such a mandate would "rule out" their backing according to Bloomberg.

When adding up the latest Iowa poll data, it becomes clear that Ron Paul is the current front-runner in Iowa and gaining momentum nationally. Obviously, this could change before the January 3 Republican presidential caucuses, but for now, the Texas Congressman has a small edge in what is shaping up to be a very competitive race.

 

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