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Des Moines Register Poll: Romney 24, Paul 22, Santorum 15

11:00 PM, Dec 31, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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The latest poll of Republican Iowa caucusgoers by the Des Moines Register finds Mitt Romney maintaining a slight lead over his Republican rivals with 24 percent support. In the survey, conducted over four days in the last week, Ron Paul comes in a close second with 22 percent, and Rick Santorum sees his numbers improve to 15 percent ahead of Tuesday's caucuses. Here's more from the Register:

But the four-day results don’t reflect just how quickly momentum is shifting in a race that has remained highly fluid for months. If the final two days of polling are considered separately, Santorum rises to second place, with 21 percent, pushing Paul to third, at 18 percent. Romney remains the same, at 24 percent.

“Momentum’s name is Rick Santorum,” said the Register’s pollster, J. Ann Selzer.

Another sign of the race’s volatility: 41 percent of likely caucusgoers say they could still be persuaded to change their minds.

So could Santorum's momentum in these final days translate into a first- or second-place photo finish on January 3? Recent Iowa caucuses suggest that those candidates with last-minute positive momentum have seen their numbers improve on caucus day.

In 2008, Barack Obama improved from his 32 percent level of support in the final Register poll to 37 percent to win the Democratic caucuses, while Mike Huckabee increased his lead slightly from 32 in the Register poll to 34 percent in his Republican caucus victory. And in 2004, both John Kerry and John Edwards improved from 26 percent and 23 percent, respectively, in the Register poll, to 38 percent and 32 percent, respectively, on caucus day.

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