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Romney, Paul Top Iowa Poll; Santorum in Third

Romney, Paul Top Iowa Poll; Santorum in Third

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - December 29, 2011


Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are running neck-and-neck in Iowa, as voters there prepare for next week's first-in-the-nation caucuses.

A Rasmussen poll of likely caucus-goers finds Romney edging Paul, 23 percent to 22 percent. Paul has narrowed the gap, however: About a week ago, he trailed Romney by five points in another Rasmussen poll. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has surged into third place with 16 percent of the support (he had 10 percent last week). Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tie with 13 percent. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann gets 5 percent, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman receives 3 percent.

Romney wins the plurality of support -- 26 percent -- from Republican voters. Santorum attracts 19 percent while Gingrich and Paul each garner 15 percent. But Paul leads among non-Republicans with 38 percent of the support. Romney gets 15 percent from this group while Perry receives 14 percent.

Santorum, who has waged an aggressive campaign in Iowa, leads among the state's most conservative voters, taking 28 percent of support. Romney wins 18 percent, and Gingrich attracts 16 percent. Santorum, a Catholic and a social conservative, is ahead among the sizable bloc of evangelical Christian voters, pulling 24 percent of that support. Romney takes Protestants and Catholics with 26 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

Romney leads his rivals among seniors by 17 points. Comparatively, Paul takes younger voters by 22 points.

But the field is still fluid: 41 percent of respondents say they could change their minds before Jan. 3. Among those whose minds aren't made up yet, Romney is the leading second-choice candidate, with 20 percent. Santorum and Perry each receive 17 percent of the second-choice support.

A plurality (37 percent) of likely caucus-goers in the Hawkeye State say that Romney is the strongest candidate to compete against President Obama next November. And while Paul may be positioned at the top of the primary ballot, voters in Iowa think he and Bachmann would be the two weakest opponents for Obama in the general election.

Rasmussen surveyed 750 likely Republican caucus-goers on Dec. 28. The sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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