Selzer & Company, the polling firm that conducts the Iowa Poll for the Des Moines Register, was in the field during the November 10-12 period, this time for the Bloomberg News Service, asking some unusual political questions of 2,677 adults. Within this large group, they found a subset of 503 individuals who said they were planning to participate in the Republican Caucus meetings Jan. 3.
Among the group of presidential candidates, retired business executive Herman Cain was the choice of 20 percent of the responders; Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) was next with 19 percent; Mitt Romney scored 18 percent; and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich registered 17 percent. This suggests that, for this first delegate selection vote that will likely set the tone for the rest of the nomination season, the race is virtually a four-way tie.
The Iowa Caucus is becoming more important than even the most recent past years. The eventual Hawkeye State winner has the very real potential of becoming Mr. Romney’s chief rival. The key to beating the former Massachusetts governor is to isolate him in a one-on-one campaign, and become identified as the more conservative candidate. On the other hand, Romney wins in a crowded field, where his consistent poll standing in the low to mid-twenties might be enough to claim victory if the others rather evenly split the large number of outstanding votes.
Since he enjoys big leads in the New Hampshire primary polls, a victory in Iowa could provide Mr. Romney with enough momentum to wrap up the nomination early. No non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate has ever won both the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary. Sweeping the two could make Romney unstoppable.
On another poll question, 29 percent of those sampled reported that their minds about who to support are set. A full 60 percent said they could still change their opinion, yet another piece of supporting evidence attesting to the volatility of this Republican nomination campaign.
In testing the tax reform ideas of the major candidates, 24% said they would favor a platform that described Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan (9 percent corporate and 9 percent personal income tax rates, and a 9 percent national sales tax). This was trumped by an approach that would create three individual personal income tax rates at 23, 14 and 8%, however. Thirty-two percent said such an option would be their top tax reform choice. Gov. Rick Perry’s proposed 20% flat tax rate was named by 14% of the Republican sample.
As the Iowa campaign begins to heat up, the race is getting closer. Much more will follow before the voters make a final determination right after the first of the year.