Mitt Romney leads in new Des Moines Register poll

at 08:12 PM ET, 12/31/2011

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney holds a razor-thin edge over Texas Rep. Ron Paul with just three days left before the Iowa caucuses, according to a Des Moines Register poll released Saturday night.


Republican Presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Presidential Candidates Forum December 7, 2011 at Ronald Reagan Building and International Center in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Romney takes 24 percent to 22 percent for Paul. Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum places third with 15 percent. But he is also clearly the candidate with most momentum; over the final two days of the four-day survey, Santorum’s support surged to 21 percent ahead of Paul and just behind Romney.

The second tier of candidates includes former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 12 percent, Texas Gov. Rick Perry at 11 percent and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann at 7 percent.

The race remains relatively fluid, however, as more than four in ten likely caucus-goers say they could still change their mind on a candidate before the Jan. 3 vote.

The poll comes just 72 hours before Iowa kicks off the 2012 Republican presidential nominating fight. It also comes on the heels of two other surveys — one for NBC/Marist, the other for CNN/Time — that showed Romney and Paul closely bunched in first or second and with Santorum rapidly moving up into third place.

It represents a major swing from a Register survey conducted in early December that showed Gingrich in the lead with 25 percent followed by Paul at 18 percent and Romney at 16 percent. Santorum took just six percent in that poll.

In 2008, the Register poll, which is conducted by J. Ann Selzer, accurately predicted the order of finish in the hotly contested Democratic Iowa caucuses.

 
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