In a shift that could reshape the dynamics of the 2012 Republican presidential primary, a new poll shows Ron Paul almost overtaking Newt Gingrich in Iowa.
Gingrich's recent surge had him leading the polls in Iowa's crucial early caucus, offering the prospect of a grueling state-by-state nomination battle with Mitt Romney, who has consistently polled as the leading candidate in New Hampshire. But a poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling threatened to upend that narrative, showing that Paul lagged a single point behind Gingrich in Iowa.
While Gingrich registered a sharp five point decline in the past week, the poll reflected a deeper erosion in the percentage of voters who viewed him favorably. Paul enjoyed a 30-point margin between those who viewed him favorably and unfavorably, compared to a 12 percent gap for Gingrich.
Part of it is just the underlying favorability numbers, said Dustin Ingalls, assistant director of Public Policy Polling. With the spotlight Gingrich has had on himself in recent weeks it seems he's taken a hit, especially with Tea Party voters, and Ron Paul is seeing his personal numbers increase.
Gingrich Taking Hits From the Field
As he has ascended to frontrunner status, Gingrich has faced a barrage of increasingly aggressive attacks from his rivals. Paul's campaign recently launched a new attack ad entitled Selling Access that depicts Gingrich as the consummate Washington insider, a criticism that Gingrich's opponents had thus far used with little evidence of it swaying voters.
Demographics also factored in heavily. Gingrich drew substantial support from older voters, while Paul saw greater popularity among potential voters who were younger than 40 or who had not voted in the 2008 Republican caucuses. The latter group includes self-identified Democrats or independents.
Newt Gingrich's momentum is fading in Iowa, Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling, said in a press release. Meanwhile Ron Paul is building an unusual coalition of support for a Republican primary.
While Paul faces questions about getting first time voters to turn out to the polls, he retains a grassroots core of die-hard supporters, and he has in place a far more robust Iowa infrastructure than Gingrich's skeletal operation.
In 2007 everyone thought there's no way Obama is going to be able to bring these first timers in, Ingalls noted. Ron Paul might not have the organization that Obama did, but he certainly has the best organization in Iowa of any of the candidates this year.