In preparation for the 4 p.m. release of CNN’s new Iowa poll, here are a few questions to ask yourself as you peruse the results and wonder about their impact on the Republican quest to win the first-in-the-nation contest in the Hawkeye State on Jan. 3.

1.) How much has renewed interest in Ron Paul’s newsletters and the racism, anti-Semitism and other ugliness within them hurt the Texas congressman’s standing as the front-runner?

2.) Has Newt Gingrich’s standing eroded further (thanks to a barrage of negative ads and his lack of equal response) or has it remained relatively steady? The former House Speaker was the front-runner just a week ago.

3.) Is talk of a surge in conservative support for Rick Santorum real? “Nothing is a done deal,” wrote Byron York yesterday in the Washington Examiner, “but Santorum appears to be gaining strength fast among some of Iowa’s most influential conservative leaders.” Today’s poll numbers should give us a clue whether this he is ascendant.

4.) Where is Michele Bachmann in the poll? She was born in Iowa and has campaigned hard in the Hawkeye State. If her support is anemic less than a week before the caucus, what does that say about her prospects on Jan. 3 and beyond?

5.) Rick Perry is all over the airwaves. Will his slick commercials be enough to cancel out the memory of his disastrous debate performances? A strong showing in this afternoon’s poll would suggest yes.

6.) And will Mitt Romney be revealed as the sleeper candidate? Remember, having learned his lesson in 2008, the former Massachusetts governor was going to put in a minimal effort in Iowa. Or so went the conventional wisdom. As Politico reported this morning, thanks to a series of stealth moves and sputtering support for Ron Paul, Romney could be in striking distance of winning the caucus. A crowded field of conservative-vote-splitting candidates only makes that task easier.

Today’s CNN poll might answer these questions. At least, I hope it will.