IS RON PAUL ABOUT TO SAVE MITT ROMNEY?
If Public Policy Polling is right, the Gingrich comeback story may be almost over:
There has been some major movement in the Republican Presidential race in Iowa over the last week, with what was a 9 point lead for Newt Gingrich now all the way down to a single point. Gingrich is at 22% to 21% for Paul with Mitt Romney at 16%, Michele Bachmann at 11%, Rick Perry at 9%, Rick Santorum at 8%, Jon Huntsman at 5%, and Gary Johnson at 1%.
Gingrich has dropped 5 points in the last week and he's also seen a significant decline in his favorability numbers. Last week he was at +31 (62/31) and he's now dropped 19 points to +12 (52/40). The attacks on him appear to be taking a heavy toll- his support with Tea Party voters has declined from 35% to 24%.
Paul meanwhile has seen a big increase in his popularity from +14 (52/38) to +30 (61/31). There are a lot of parallels between Paul's strength in Iowa and Barack Obama's in 2008- he's doing well with new voters, young voters, and non-Republican voters....
I'll let Chris Cillizza explain why this could be extraordinarily helpful to Mitt Romney (and please note that Cillizza's post was written before the PPP numbers were released):
If Paul and Romney -- two of the best funded candidates in the Iowa field -- are both going full bore at Gingrich on television in the final three weeks of the race, it will make it far more difficult for the former House Speaker to maintain his current elevated standing in the Hawkeye State.
But it's not just in helping drag Gingrich's numbers down in Iowa where Paul can help Romney.
... A Paul victory in Iowa would be a dream come true for Romney. Why? Because Paul, like former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in 2008, has far less obvious appeal in the states beyond Iowa and would likely struggle to build his caucus victory into a broader national campaign.
Simply put: The less Iowa matters, the better for Team Romney. And a Paul victory there, while intriguing and a case study for political scientists for years to come, would almost certainly mean that the real race for the nomination begins a week later in New Hampshire.
The matchup to watch in Iowa then isn't Newt vs Mitt. It's Newt vs Ron. Or so Mitt hopes.
If Paul wins Iowa and Gingrich loses, I think Gingrich's bubble will burst -- he'll struggle to be competitive with Romney in New Hampshire, and then he'll be 0 for 2. At that point he'll just be the underfunded loser with baggage he was a couple of months ago.
And no, Rick Perry isn't going to be the new anti-Romney, according to PPP:
Rick Perry generated a ton of attention in the last week with his ad decrying the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and the 'War on Christmas,' but it hasn't done much for his poll standing. He was at 9% and he's still at 9%. His favorability numbers are under water with 43% of likely voters viewing him favorably to 47% with a negative opinion. The only Republican who's less well regarded is Jon Huntsman. Only 41% of Iowa Republicans even oppose gays serving in the military to 28% who support it and 31% unsure...and Perry's only tied for fourth even with those who are opposed, behind Gingrich, Bachmann, and Paul.
Meanwhile, Ron Paul has no game in South Carolina or Florida, and his message fails to hit many of the usual winger pleasure centers (foreign policy muscularity most prominent among them).
So if Paul wins Iowa, I'd say at that point it's over. Romney wins the nomination easily, even if the base doesn't like him all that much. And folks, I don't think Obama can beat him.
(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)