The new Des Moines Register poll shows Newt Gingrich with a 7-point lead in Iowa over Ron Paul, and a 9-point lead of Mitt Romney. “It’s a three-person race, but there’s a clear leader,” says J. Ann Selzer, the Register’s pollster. The last poll conducted by Selzer — the recognized expert in Iowa polling — showed essentially a 4-way tie between Herman Cain (20 percent support), Paul (19 percent), Romney (18 percent), and Gingrich (17 percent). Three weeks later, Gingrich is up 8 points (to 25 percent), Paul is down 1 point (to 18 percent), Romney is down 2 points (to 16 percent), and Cain has dropped out of the race altogether (although the Register poll, taken just before he dropped out, still shows him with 8 percent support).
When respondents were asked who their 2nd-choice would be, 18 percent said Gingrich, 15 percent said Romney, 12 percent said Rick Perry, and 11 percent said Michele Bachmann. Seven percent said Paul.
Bachmann has 8 percent support in the poll, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry each have 6 percent support, and Jon Huntsman, who’s not really competing in Iowa but is instead focusing on New Hampshire, has 2 percent support.
Interestingly, respondents were also asked who they think tops the GOP field in a number of categories. Gingrich is viewed as the candidate who’s the most knowledgeable, the most experienced, the best debater, the most apt to bring Republicans and Democrats together, the most likely to bring about “real change,” and the most like Ronald Reagan. Moreover, very few respondents (only 7 percent) view him as the “most negative” candidate — fewer than the number who named Paul, Perry, Romney, Bachmann, or Cain.
However, only 8 percent of respondents list Gingrich as the “most likable” candidate, which places him behind Romney, Bachmann, Cain, Perry, and Paul, and tied with Santorum, in that category. Respondents also said that, aside from Cain, Gingrich is the candidate who’s the “most likely to have a scandal in the White House if elected.”
Romney is viewed as the candidate who’s the most likable, the most presidential, and the most electable in the general election. However, only 6 percent think he’s the candidate who’s the “most knowledgeable about the world.” Perhaps of greatest concern for Romney — who’s central pitch is that he can turn the economy around — more respondents think that Gingrich is the candidate who’s “the best able to turn the economy around.”
Paul is listed as the most principled and most fiscally responsible candidate, but also as the “most negative.”