POLITICS
01/03/2012 08:26 am ET

Ron Paul Iowa Caucus 2012 Outlook

Ahead of Tuesday's Iowa Caucus, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) told supporters in the Hawkeye State that he's "optimistic" about his chances of winning the Republican contest.

Four years after making an unsuccessful bid for the GOP presidential nomination, the Texas libertarian returned to Iowa with a revamped operation. Paul came in second in the Ames Straw Poll last August and is running competitively against rival contenders former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) to win the kick-off primary competition of the year.

The Enthusiasm Factor

HuffPost's Ryan Grim reports:

Unbridle enthusiasm is nothing new for Ron Paul, whose crowds on Monday lived up to their reputation, cheering for opposition to the war, personal liberty, and restricting the activity of the Federal Reserve. "Not only do we want to audit the Fed, we want to make sure that we have something much better than the current Federal Reserve System," Paul said, moderating an applause line that typically calls for an "end" to the Fed.

Romney, while he'd prefer to win outright, is pleased to be in a top three that includes Paul and Santorum -- two candidates that don't have the backing of many establishment Republicans or support from the big money players who dominate the GOP fundraising world. In a war of attrition that will be fought on the airwaves rather than in diners and coffee shops, Romney has the upperhand against Paul and Santorum in a way he wouldn't have against Perry or, perhaps, Gingrich.

As the outcome of the race for Iowa remains difficult to predict, HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal notes how one factor related to Paul's candidacy could influence how he preforms in Tuesday night's contest:

Will hardcore supporters of Ron Paul, who tend to be younger and more politically independent, turn out in numbers greater or less than those found in most public polls?

The Polls

HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal reports:

The latest poll of Iowa's likely Republican caucus-goers provides more evidence of a race headed toward a photo finish, with Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and a surging Rick Santorum running within two percentage points of each other.

The automated poll conducted by the Democratic Party-affiliated firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows Ron Paul at 20 percent, Mitt Romney at 19 percent and Rick Santorum at 18 percent on a survey for which PPP reports a margin of error for each candidate of +/- 2.7 percent. Running farther back are Newt Gingrich at 14 percent, Rick Perry at 10 percent, Michele Bachmann at 8 percent, Jon Huntsman at 4 percent and Buddy Roemer at 2 percent. PPP interviewed 1,340 likely Republican caucus goers on December 31 and January 1.
...
PPP's results and trends are mostly consistent with those on a half-dozen other polls released in the last week. HuffPost Pollster's chart, based on all public polls in Iowa, currently shows Mitt Romney leading with 22.5 percent, Ron Paul in second but fading slightly to 19.1 percent, Rick Santorum rising fast to 17.1 percent, and Newt Gingrich still falling and now at 12.9 percent.

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