GOP candidates Rick Santorum and Ron Paul take part in the CNN Western Republican debate
Things were way more civil between the two at this October debate in Las Vegas. Sen. Rick Santorum called GOP rival Rep. Ron Paul "disgusting" in Iowa Tuesday, signaling things are getting nastier in the run for the Republican presidential nomination. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

The Iowa caucus is three days away and the Republican presidential caucus has found one more emerging front runner in Rick Santorum.

According to the new CNN/Time/ORC poll, Rick Santorum has polled 16 percent votes in Iowa and is in the third place behind Mitt Romney (25 percent) and Ron Paul (22 percent) who are in the first and second places respectively. He has pushed Newt Gingrich, a one-time front runner, to the fourth position.

For this last minutes surge in trial polls, Santorum should thank evangelicals in the state who have lately realized that they have to support one candidate unanimously, else divided loyalty may result in the win of either a moderate Mitt Romney or libertarian Ron Paul.

An analysis of the Iowan poll scene in the past few months clearly shows a roller coaster ride with different candidates donning the lead front runner crown for short periods. Iowa is important mainly because it is the first state that is going for polls and the results here is going to influence the polls in remaining states for sure. In this context, the outcome here is important for both the candidates as well as the Republican voters.

Republican voters here consist of mainly of conservatives, liberal-sided and evangelicals. The candidates also naturally represent these interest groups based on their stands. For instance, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are backed by establishment pro conservatives, Ron Paul has the support of liberal and Tea Party republicans while Evangelicals support Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.

There has been no clear winner in Iowa so far because of the constant change in leads. But with caucus looming ahead Jan 3, the picture is getting clearer. As per the recent polls, it is clear that the winner may be either Mitt Romney or Ron Paul since other contenders are way behind them.

The unexpected surge of Ron Paul has created panic waves among the more social conservatives and evangelicals in Iowa. The present scenario is tricky to evangelicals because none of the evangelical candidates are leading, and liberal candidate Ron Paul has strong chances of winning Iowa as per the trial polls. This is unacceptable to the evangelicals, who strongly believe Ron Paul is not a suitable Republican presidential candidate. They find his views especially on foreign policy and less governance are extreme, libertarian and thus anti Republican. This is very clear from the reports that evangelical leaders are in indirect campaigning against Ron Paul.

Evangelicals may prefer Mitt Romney to Ron Paul if they have to make a choice between the two, but they don't trust the moderate conservatism of Mitt Romney.

Though the evangelicals have a strong support base, three candidates vying for the same apple have spoiled everybody's chances. Now the realization has prompted them to choose one out of three, and naturally it has turned out to be Rick Santorum who is better positioned than Rick Perry and Bachmann.

There have been discussions going around in evangelical circles that other two candidates, who have less chance of winning, should sacrifice and withdraw from the race and support the strongest among them for a collective benefit. Two evangelical pastors reportedly visited Bachmann, requesting her to support Santorum, but she declined the request.

In these circumstances, there are intensified efforts from evangelicals to influence the more conservatives and still undecided groups in Iowa to support a conservative candidate.

Still judging the solid support which Ron Paul has garnered with his systematic grass root campaign, it may be too late to reverse his lead in Iowa. But if they can convince their voter base in to supporting a single candidate, then there will be a triangular battle instead of a duel in Iowa.