Iowa Caucuses: A Wide Open Affair

Seven weeks out, the high percentage of “undecideds” is the top line story in Iowa. If the Tea Party gets behind one candidate that could change the entire landscape in January’s Hawkeye State nominating contest. James Q. Lynch of KCRG has more:

With fewer than 50 days until Iowa’s first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses, the race appears to be up for grabs based on the results of an Iowa State University/Gazette/KCRG poll of likely caucus-goers.

“That’s more the story than who’s ahead,” said Jim McCormick, chairman of the ISU Political Science Department, who coordinated the poll.

“The number of people who are firmly committed to a candidate is really only 16.5 percent,” McCormick said. “A majority of them, 52-plus, are undecided and 30 percent are sort of leaning toward one candidate.”

For the record, Herman Cain leads the field with the support of 24.5 percent of 1,256 registered Iowa voters polled. Texas Rep. Ron Paul follows with 20.4 percent and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is running third at 16.3 percent.

“Can’t decide” polled 8.1 percent — more than Texas Gov. Rick Perry (7.9 percent), Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachman (7.6 percent), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (4.8 percent) and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (4.7 percent). Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has not campaigned in Iowa, received no support. “Other” polled 5.8 percent. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent.

The poll was compiled through phone interviews Nov. 1-13, and surveyed 979 registered Republicans and 277 registered independents. Of those polled, 377 (30 percent) stated that they definitely or probably would attend the Republican caucus Jan. 3.

The fact Cain and Romney are top-tier candidates despite infrequent visits to the state suggests to McCormick “that retail politics — typically a hallmark of Iowa — is not the way the caucuses are going to be decided this year.”

The timing of the polling may not have fully captured the reaction to the allegations against Cain nor his trouble answering a question about President Barack Obama’s handling of Libya as well as Gingrich’s apparent surge of support in recent days, Hagle said.

The results suggest the tea party is likely to have a strong effect on the caucuses. More than a quarter of likely caucus-goers identify themselves as part of the tea party movement. Nearly a third of them support Cain; 14 percent back Paul. Paul, Cain and Romney run neck-and-neck among non-tea party poll respondents.

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