Poll: Ron Paul Still Leads In Iowa

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Romney is still neck and neck with the Texas congressman, so it looks like it’s going to be an interesting caucus.

From Public Policy Polling:

The last week and a half has brought little change in the standings for the Iowa Republican caucus: Ron Paul continues to lead Mitt Romney by a modest margin, 24-20. Newt Gingrich is in 3rd at 13% followed by Michele Bachmann at 11%, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum at 10%, Jon Huntsman at 4%, and Buddy Roemer at 2%.

Paul’s strength in Iowa continues to depend on a coalition of voters that’s pretty unusual for a Republican in the state. Romney leads 22-20 with those who are actually Republicans, while Paul has a 39-12 advantage with the 24% who are either independents or Democrats. GOP caucus voters tend to skew old, and Romney has a 34-12 advantage with seniors. But Paul’s candidacy looks like it’s going to attract an unusual number of younger voters to the caucus this year, and with those under 45 he has a 35-11 advantage on Romney. The independent/young voter combo worked for Barack Obama in securing an unexpectedly large victory on the Democratic side in 2008 and it may be Paul’s winning equation in 2012.

But Romney has one big problem: passion.

Although Romney’s support has held steady at 20% over the last week his favorability numbers have taken a hit, something that could keep him from moving into first place over the final week. He was at +9 (49/40) but has dipped now into negative territory at -3 (44/47). Additionally Romney is the second choice of only 10% of voters, barely better than Paul’s 9%. It’s certainly still close enough that he could win, but there’s nothing within the numbers this week to suggest that he should win. One of Romney’s biggest problems continues to be his inability to hold onto his 2008 voters. Only 48% of them are still with him.

It really looks like Romney wants to win Iowa, but, if Paul wins, he might be able to dismiss it as the handiwork of indies and Dems, not the true Republican base. And since that idea has already been peppered throughout the media, it should stick. Maybe.

But if Paul does win and Romney’s strategy is to win big in New Hampshire…he may face a problem. Because Paul’s politics play well there. But Paul has those newsletter problems that he simply can’t overcome. Regardless of whether or not he knew what was in them, he profited significantly from them and that’s damning for his general election chances.

More as it develops…