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Posted at 07:58 AM ET, 01/03/2012

Why Romney, Paul or Santorum could win Iowa


A panel of my colleagues boldly made their Iowa predictions, with some putting their money on Mitt Romney, some on Rick Santorum and some on Ron Paul. Can’t say that I’m that bold. I’m like Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller, who made a confession late last week: “We can’t predict who will win Iowa.” And three major polls released over the last week show that anybody could win. Well, that’s true if you’re Mitt Romney, Ron Paul or Rick Santorum.

The CNN-Time-ORC International poll , the NBC News-Marist poll and the influential Des Moines Register poll have the three fellas running in that order. But all of these polls have them bunched up within the margin of error. That’s a virtual tie. Still, the polls show why Romney, Paul or Santorum could be a winner tonight. But I’m going to focus on the Des Moines Register survey since it’s like the caucus crystal ball.

Romney should be the winner. He comes out on top of the polls. More important, he wins the electability sweepstakes. The former Massachusetts governor is seen as the most electable by 48 percent of those surveyed. If the goal truly is to oust President Obama, then Romney should walk away with this thing later tonight. But since folks still view him with suspicion, he could lose

Paul should be the winner. The Texas congressman comes in a close second in the poll. But he leads among those who are concerned about the debt and war spending and who want consistency and a dedication to limited government. If those folks show up tonight Paul should win. Yet the Des Moines Register poll, which is done over a series of days, showed Paul’s support waning in the closing days. A question in the NBC News-Marist poll might point to the reason. When likely Iowa voters were asked who would be “unacceptable” as the GOP nominee, 41 percent said Paul, up 15 points over a survey from early December.

Santorum should be the winner. Even thought the former Pennsylvania senator is in third place with 15 percent, he is picking up major steam as Paul is losing it. When you look at the series of “least” questions — who is “the least consistent” or “the least knowledgeable” or “the least able to bring about real change” — Santorum polls low, which means he’s held in high regard. But only 7 percent view him as the most electable. Only Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), who came in sixth out of seven in the Des Moines Register poll with 7 percent, is seen as less electable (3 percent). And of all the candidates we’re pretty sure what’s going to happen to her presidential prospects tonight.

By  |  07:58 AM ET, 01/03/2012

 
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