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Another day, another poll

121073609Another poll was released yesterday from Public Policy Polling, a Democratic based polling firm that actually seems to bias towards Republican candidates according to Nate Silver. In the poll, Ron Paul took the lead from Newt Gingrich who actually slid pretty substantially from 27% on Dec. 5th to 14% in this latest poll. The poll was taken just after the last Republican debate in Sioux City and included Sunday after the release of the Des Moines Register endorsement of Mitt Romney. What’s interesting about the PPP poll is that it solidifies the pattern we’ve seen of lead change in the Republican primary in Iowa that has gone from Bachmman to Perry to Cain to Gingrich to possibly Paul, according to the Real Clear Politics tracking page. While Paul has not emerged as the latest leader, he’s only a point under Gingrich and has shown a steady climb to the top spot. So what does this latest poll really indicate going into Christmas week?

Iowans must be the only people I know of in the US that either enjoy participating in polls or just love to toy with the rest of the nation. With a voting age population of just over 2.3 million, the chances of you getting called in a poll is pretty high in the state. Just think, your opinion for one day can have a profound effect on the nation in so many ways. It’s just too tempting to “screw with the system” during the month of December in presidential primary years. Then again, Iowans seem to take this role of early state pretty seriously and have exhibited remarkable fortitude in the process when many of us would have said enough.

To start with, this poll reflects two significant events in the Iowa caucus schedule – the last head to head debate between the candidates until Jan. 3rd and the endorsement release by the largest paper in the state, the Des Moines Register. This last debate has been considered by many to be one of the best debates on the calendar with candidates seeming to address the issues in a more focused manner. Granted, they’ve been at this for quite a while and even Gov. Perry seems to be getting the knack of these debate things. I think he’s starting to look back on his political career and wish he would have done a few more in Texas.

The endorsement by the Register goes into more depth than endorsements by other papers. As I said, Iowans take this process seriously and the Register always seems to step up its game during the primary season. “We’re part of a unique conversation that dominates our state every four years but stretches well beyond Iowa. We embrace that responsibility thoughtfully, seriously and with due diligence,” said Rick Green, editor of The Register.

The endorsement outlines three key qualities it feels Romney stands above the rest of the pack: Sobriety, Wisdom, and Judgment. It further explains why it feels Romney would make the best candidate fielded by the Republican Party in 2012. Interestingly, Romney has never been a major contender in Iowa, only recently increasing campaign operations in the state. Having been defeated soundly in Iowa in 2008 by Mike Huckabee after major investments in the state, the campaign most likely felt it better to focused limited resources in the state, saving campaign dollars for the longer stretch. It’s not clear if the campaign will change strategy based on this recent poll.

With the poll comes Nate Silver’s latest projection based on the information gathered. Silver’s latest project has Paul now taking 23.8% of the vote on Jan. 3rd with a 44% chance of winning. Remember, Silver’s projections take a number of factors into account and could change as more polls are released. Based on 2008 we can possibly expect another 10-15 polls to be released before the actual caucus. During that time, candidate statements made during campaign stops are about all that will have an effect on polling results. The number of voters who seem to have made up their mind has inched forward from 60% on Dec. 13th to 63% yesterday.

Yesterday Gingrich made pretty brash statements about the judicial branch of the federal government, saying he would go as far as sending US Marshals to bring judges before a Congressional inquiry of their decisions if needed. He also advocated eliminating those courts and judges viewed as activist and limit the terms of federal judges in an attempt to control the influence of the judiciary. “Are we forced for a lifetime to keep someone on the bench who is so radically anti-American that they are a threat to the fabric of the country?” Gingrich asked in a phone conference with Iowa voters on Saturday.

Those kind of statements, while appreciated by some strong conservative voters, could bring down voter sentiment about Gingrich and pop the balloon of optimism surrounding his campaign recently. While voters may disapprove with some of the decisions rendered by federal courts, they also view that branch as a necessary part of our Republic and possibly oppose forced influence on its decisions. This series of statements coupled with other statements on child workers and questions about Gingrich’s Beltway activities after leaving office may be too much more voters to stomach in an all out run to upset Obama, especially Iowa voters.

Couple that with a campaign infrastructure that is sorely lacking in Iowa and you have the potential of the once frontrunner coming in third, after riding the lead for a week or so in Iowa. Paul seems best suited to win the Iowa Caucus, thanks to a strong ground operation, a steady rise in the polls, and an appeal to a state that often leans moderate more than anything. While tea party activism could turn the tide on the Iowa Caucus, voter sentiment to that brand of politics has been dropping lately, thanks to continued falters in Congress, partially attributed to tea party freshmen blocking some legislative moves.

There’s still a lot of time and miles left in Iowa and every candidate has the opportunity to make it or break it in a state that prides itself on being first in the nation. After all, we’re running out of candidates for the front. There’s still Hunstman and Santorum and Romney has yet to break the lead in the state.

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