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New Report: Ron Paul Third In Iowa?

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The following piece is published on Iowa Independent as well as HuffPost's OffTheBus.

In the past week, momentum in Iowa's GOP caucuses has shifted significantly. Gov. Mitt Romney, who had an apparent stranglehold on the 2008 caucuses through the summer and fall, has found himself in the midst of a true fight.

Today, in the second round of Iowa Independent's Republican Power Rankings, we seek again to answer the question, "If the Iowa Caucuses were held tonight, what would be their results?"

We caution our readers that our methodology is wholly unscientific. Our rankings are based on impressions we received from activists, politicos, and caucus-goers along with our gut feelings and guesses. We hope that as our readers follow the always unpredictable Iowa horse race from day to day, they will keep this list in mind as a useful perspective from reporters on the ground across the state.

If the caucuses were held tonight, these are the results we would predict:

First Place

Mike Huckabee -- Upward Momentum -- Huckabee's meteoric rise came late enough in the campaign that many had already written him off, but even his skeptics here appear to be giving him a second look. His support, cultivated by time and resources spent largely in Western Iowa while the media was busy elsewhere watching other candidates over the past several months, is solid. And the organizational disadvantage he faced compared to former Gov. Mitt Romney appears to be diminishing. Huckabee is the new Iowa frontrunner.

Second Place

Mitt Romney -- Counterintuitively, it seems, Huckabee's rise had little to do with Romney's own campaign. He still makes few mistakes and is as skilled a politician as any presidential candidate from either party. Most of Iowa's political heavy-hitters continue to stand by him. But rank-and-file caucus-goers, many of whom remained undecided up until this point, appear to be breaking in Huckabee's favor. Romney's support among these voters, which was fairly soft to begin with, is slowly shrinking.

Third Place

Ron Paul -- The more we think about it, the more we conclude that none of the remaining candidates on this list have a strong base of support the way Rep. Paul does. His unlikely coalition of supporters does not include many typical caucus-goers, but they are devoted. And to top it all off, the campaign appears to be fairly well organized here, with paid calls, visibility (television, radio, billboards), and direct outreach efforts. Much about the Paul campaign will remain up in the air until caucus night, but a third place finish would certainly raise some eyebrows heading into New Hampshire.

Fourth Place

Rudy Giuliani -- Although Giuliani's positions on social issues do not line up with those of many of his supporters, he is widely perceived as the most electable candidate in the race, and that's a concern in the minds of many GOP voters. But aside from that, he appears to have little going for him here, where he has spent little time or money to build an organization.

Fifth Place

Fred Thompson
-- Thompson has spent very little time in Iowa building relationships, and the time that he has spent here was not particularly effective. Iowans still need to hear Thompson say why he wants to be president, because to many of them, that answer remains unclear.

Sixth Place

(tie) John McCain -- Downward Momentum -- From all appearances, McCain has nearly abandoned Iowa, whether he has said so publicly or not. His hold-out supporters may be growing restless, and we have not been cut in on any of his recent TV ad buys. If the caucuses were held tonight, we are not sure he would even show up here.

(tie) Tom Tancredo
-- Tancredo is campaigning here, still hoping to capitalize on the politics of immigration. And he is up on TV here, which never hurts.