The latest Iowa Poll released by the Des Moines Register shows Mitt Romney in first with 24 percent, Ron Paul in second with 22 percent, and Rick Santorum in third with 15 percent. While some have questioned Romney’s commitment to Iowa, his first place finish in the final poll of the caucus season should perhaps not come as any surprise.
As we all know, the easiest way to solve a maze is to start at the end and work backwards. In doing so, it becomes easy to see the path to the beginning, and all the twists and turns along the way seem logical.
So it goes with the 2012 race to the GOP nomination. Despite all the twists and turns in the polls from July through December, we are right back where we started: Mitt Romney, the presumed nominee and national frontrunner back in May, is leading in Iowa.
For Romney, however, 2011 is probably starting to feel eerily similar to December of 2007. Having finally committed to campaigning in the state, he is now facing a surging candidate from the most likely of places.
In the last two days of polling (Dec. 29-30) in the Iowa Poll mentioned above, Santorum actually finishes in second at 21 percent to Romney at 24 percent. In other words, Romney is once again pitted against a candidate with a low budget campaign, who is committed to “retail politics,” and who appeals to social conservative/evangelical/born-again Christian voters.
Unlike 2008, however, a strong finish in Iowa by Santorum or Paul will probably do little to diminish the prospects for Romney in New Hampshire.
On the other hand, as in 2008, a second place showing in Iowa may leave Romney open to a challenge from a candidate who, like McCain in 2008, was all but finished the summer prior to the caucus.
Newt Gingrich comes in fourth at 12 percent in the Iowa Poll. And while his numbers continue to decline rapidly in Iowa, he is polling well ahead in South Carolina and Florida. Should Gingrich, like McCain, finish fourth in Iowa, it may be a bit premature to write off his campaign.
To borrow a line from the movie, The American President, “the country has mood swings.” The mood swings this time around have been a bit more volatile, but the finish looks strangely familiar.
Happy New Year and happy caucusing!