Tuesday's Bloomberg News Poll of likely voters revealed more than Ron Paul's first place tie with three other GOP contenders for the upcoming 2012 Iowa Caucuses. It showed just how strong Paul's campaign presence in Iowa is and how decided his supporters are. The picture looks promising for the fiscally conservative, anti-war Texas congressman and his prospects in the upcoming Republican primary process.
Before digging into the results, it's worth noting the importance and accuracy of polls in early voting states like Iowa. Bloomberg contends:
"Polls in Iowa and New Hampshire -- site of the nation’s first primary -- are better barometers of the candidate field than national surveys because voters in those states are paying more attention and are aware of their early role in shaping the Republican race."
With that in mind, Tuesday's poll had shocking implications for the potential outcome of the Republican presidential primary. It revealed a four-way statistical dead heat between Herman Cain (20%), Ron Paul (19%), Mitt Romney (18%), and Newt Gingrich (17%). What might have been unthinkable in 2008 is a reality just weeks ahead of the Iowa Caucuses-- Ron Paul could win Iowa.
This is noteworthy because of the unique and controversial platform of national reform advocated by the independent-minded Texas congressman. As one Fox News panelist argued:
"That's [Ron Paul's] campaign's point, which is that he, you could argue, has the most divergent viewpoint up on that stage from any other candidate, and if we're really going to have a national conversation, and a dialogue, you got to bring him in..."
If Ron Paul were to secure victory in Iowa and move on to take the Republican nomination in 2012, it would signal a fundamental change in the composition and political philosophy of the Republican Party and a firm rebuke to the party establishment of the Bush years. And it looks like it could actually happen, especially if he performs well in the early states.
The Bloomberg poll didn't just firmly peg Ron Paul in Iowa's top tier, it revealed that he has a stronger game on the ground in Iowa than his opponents. When polled about their level of contact with the different presidential campaigns, likely Iowa Caucus voters reported being contacted by the Ron Paul campaign more than any other candidate, with 67% responding that they had been contacted.
The other top tier candidates trailed far behind Paul in this respect, with Mitt Romney at 46%, Herman Cain at 41%, and Newt Gingrich at 29%. These numbers are consistent with the massive amount of money Ron Paul is aggressively pouring into early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as the number of campaign staff and volunteers Paul has working on the ground in Iowa.
Another strong indicator for Paul was how decided likely Iowa Caucus voters were. In its report on the poll, Bloomberg noted that the results reflected the race’s fluidity:
"with 60 percent of respondents saying they still could be persuaded to back someone other than their top choice, and 10 percent undecided. Paul’s support is more solidified than his rivals, while Cain’s is softer."