Tuesday’s the day — the first votes of the Presidential election will be counted as Republicans start the process of choosing their nominee. So what did the final numbers say? The two men in the lead, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) are stagnating as we approach the Iowa caucuses, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R) is picking up support in a major way. All three candidates are essentially converging on each other with only hours left.
Polling released on Monday showed Romney and Paul battling over the top spot — the two men were tied for first at about 22 percent in an InsiderAdvantage snap poll conducted New Year’s Day with Santorum close behind. Another American Research Group survey showed Romney with a bit more room to breathe: the former governor had a five point lead over Paul and Santorum in data collected from late last week and the holiday weekend. In Public Policy Polling (D) numbers out on Sunday night, all the candidates were within two points, with Romney at 20, Paul at 19 and Santorum at 18.
The TPM Poll Average (below) of the race shows support for Romney and Paul flattening as we get closer to the finish line, with Santorum going through the roof. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who led the race in Iowa handily just a few weeks ago, has been blistered with negative ads from other campaigns and allied super PACs, resulting in a drop of twenty points.
While the race seems to be breaking down into two tiers (Santorum, Paul and Romney and then everyone else) the real wild card in the numbers is whether one of the other candidates can jump up and grab one of the “three tickets out of Iowa.” But as mentioned, that seems unlikely for Gingrich, who is on the downslope as votes approach.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has moved up slightly over the last few weeks, from the mid single digits to a little below ten percent. Perry’s favorability rating has ticked up considerably since he was underwater within the GOP (38 - 41) in Public Policy Polling’s (D) Iowa numbers from October — he’s now at a positive 52 - 39 split after spending millions on TV ads. But he’s not showing strong upward momentum at this crucial time.
The drama of the winner’s circle will be in the turnout game — a battle between Paul’s fervent supporters, Romney’s well-funded campaign, and Santorum’s fortunately-timed surge.
Kyle is the Editor of TPM Media’s PollTracker. He graduated from Beloit College (WI) and began working in politics before getting an M.A. in magazine journalism from New York University, where he interned at TPM and the website of The New Yorker.