It's been a remarkable two weeks in Iowa polling. Newt Gingrich has surged to the top, only to fall precipitously down to third. Meanwhile, Ron Paul has slowly, but steadily, risen in polling, to take top spot in Democrat pollster PPP's latest survey. Add that to Paul having what is regarded as the strongest field operation in the state, and the possibility of Paul winning the Iowa Caucus suddenly becomes a serious possibility.
In PPP's latest poll Paul is at 23% to Romney's 20%, with Gingrich dropping to 14%. The poll has come under scrutiny for its sample, something that PPP has messed up in Colorado as well. Despite PPP's continued struggles with sampling, the trends identified in the poll — Gingrich sinking, Ron Paul strong — are in line with what other polls, both public and private, have found.
Gingrich is being slammed with thousands of points of negative Iowa TV buys from both Paul's campaign and the pro-Romney Super PAC, Restore Our Future. With no response on TV from Gingrich, the ads are having a noticeable effect. His favorable numbers are dropping like a rock, and along with it, his support.
That trend is opening up a path for Paul to take the kickoff caucuses.
With the distinct possibility of Paul winning the caucuses there has been a mad mainstream media dash to say it would mean the end of Iowa mattering to the presidential primary process. But the mainstream press lacks much credibility when it comes to Paul, seeing as there has been an undeniable media blackout around his candidacy, despite Paul proving to be the most resilient candidate in the race.
Paul has come this far in Iowa, and elswhere, through a good, old fashioned grassroots campaign. He is the Obama of the 2012 when it comes to both the fervor of his supporters and their unmatched field office operation.
Even with that advantage, let's be honest, Paul is not going to be the nominee. His isolationist foreign policy beliefs will just not gel with enough Republican primary voters in enough states for him to rack up enough delegates to take the nomination. That doesn't mean he isn't a force to be reckon with.
With Mitt Romney coquettish with his Iowa operation, afraid to set expectations too high, and Newt Gingrich taking last weekend off, not even setting foot in Iowa, there is no campaign capable of matching Paul's ground operation in the Hawkeye State. Heck, Paul even has a Colorado field office up and running, the only presidential campaign with a physical presence in the Centennial State. His turnout operation will be unparalleled come January 3rd in Iowa.
As caucuses give an extra edge to candidates with zealous supporters — who else would brave the frozen tundra of Iowa to stand around a high school gym for hours — Paul's polling numbers potentially even understate his true position. He notched a strong second place at the Ames Straw Poll in August and his supporters have proven time and again their ability to dominate low-turnout, activist-heavy events like caucuses.
While Paul placed fifth in Iowa's 2008 Caucus, there exists the distinct possibility he could take the state this time. If he does, it will only underscore how non-traditional this year's nominating contest has been.
Who would have thought an anti-war, libertarian candidate could win the Iowa Caucus?