GOP Presidential Power Rankings: Eve of the Iowa Caucus

We’re almost there, folks. Tomorrow, Iowans will head to the various caucus locations to cast there ballots for the Republican nomination for president. Who is the favorite right now? It’s hard to say, because three candidates are in a dogfight for the top.

On New Year’s Eve, the Des Moines Register released their final poll for the caucus showing Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum rounding out the top, in that order:

  • Mitt Romney: 24% (+8)
  • Ron Paul: 22% (+4)
  • Rick Santorum: 15% (+9)
  • Newt Gingrich: 12% (-13)
  • Rick Perry: 11% (+5)
  • Michele Bachmann: 7% (-1)
  • Jon Huntsman: 2% (—)

While the poll shows Romney and Paul in a virtual tie for the top, here is the kicker; Santorum took 21% in that final two days of the poll, which is leading many pundits to say that he is the likely favorite heading into tomorrow.

Public Policy Polling also released their final poll for the caucus. They too show Santorum surging, though still in third. There is bad news, despite leading in the poll, for Paul:

  • Ron Paul: 20% (-4)
  • Mitt Romney: 19% (-1)
  • Rick Santorum: 18% (+8)
  • Newt Gingrich: 14% (+1)
  • Rick Perry: 10% (—)
  • Michele Bachmann: 8% (-3)
  • Jon Huntsman: 4% (—)

We’ll go over more in these polls in our rankings.

The Rankings

Rick Santorum (): This is not a prediction that Santorum will win tomorrow. It’s simply showing that he has the momentum heading into the caucus. Even if he does manage to pull off a win, Santorum’s reach in other states is limited. With important primaries in Florida and South Carolina in just a few weeks, Santorum will not be able to build any semblance of a campaign organization. Does santorum have a good ground game in Iowa? It doesn’t really seem like it. This polling “surge” hasn’t translated into numbers at campaign events.

Mitt Romney (): There is still a chance that Romney could win. His polling numbers have stayed steady over the last two weeks, only moving within the margin of error. If Romney does win — as FiveThirtyEight projects — or finish second, it’ll send a message to many Republican voters that he will be the eventual nominee.

Ron Paul (): Public Policy Polling noted in their results that Paul’s favorability have fallen significantly, from 53/40 to 43/51. You can blame the focus on the newsletters and Paul’s lackluster explanation for them for that drop. Paul’s also made a mistake by not spending the weekend in Iowa. It means a lot to voters if candidates are there making the final push. I should note that the Des Moines Register poll showed that, among the candidates, Paul is the most consistant, the most concerned about reducing debt, the least ego-driven, and the most dedicated to limited government.

Newt Gingrich (): Gingrich insists that the race is still wide open, but it’s hard to conclude that after looking at the polls. His campaign organization in Iowa is weak and negative ads have certainly taken their toll. Iowans view Gingrich as the most knowledgable on the issues, but also the least consistant. Gingrich’s campaign would have been better served at spending their campaign haul in South Carolina and Florida, which also have January primaries.

Rick Perry (): Last week, it looked as though Perry was rising in the polls, but the latest numbers show him still unable to gain any separation with Gingrich. Come tomorrow evening or Wednesday morning, Perry may have a very tough decision to make.

Michele Bachmann (): Like Gingrich, Bachmann is dismissing poll numbers and insists that she is still a serious candidate, but in reality, she is desparate. Bachmann lost one of her state co-chairman (Kent Sorenson) last week to Paul, then accused him of taking money to leave. This didn’t sit well with her own politicial director, who defended Sorenson against the allegations. If anything is certain, it’s that Bachmann’s time in this race is, thankfully, almost up.

Jon Huntsman (even): As has been noted before, Huntsman isn’t making a real effort in Iowa. His campaign has been concentrating on New Hampshire.

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