Here comes Santorum in Iowa

The new CNN poll confirms what many analysts on the ground had been saying for the last fortnight; Rick Santorum is making a serious move in Iowa.


A new survey of people likely to attend Iowa's Republican caucuses indicates that the former House speaker's support in the Hawkeye State is plunging. And according to a CNN/Time/ORC International Poll, one-time long shot candidate Rick Santorum has more than tripled his support since the beginning of the month.

Twenty-five percent of people questioned say if the caucuses were held today, they'd most likely back Mitt Romney, with 22% saying they'd support Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Romney's three point margin is within the poll's sampling error.

The poll's Wednesday release comes six days before Iowa's January 3 caucuses, which kickoff the presidential primary and caucus calendar. The Iowa caucuses are followed one week later by the New Hampshire primary.

A new CNN/Time/ORC poll of likely primary voters in New Hampshire indicates that Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, remains the front-runner, far ahead of his rivals for the GOP nomination.

In Iowa, both Romney and Paul are each up five points among likely caucus goers from a CNN/Time/ORC poll conducted at the start of December. The new survey indicates that Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, is at 16% support, up 11 points from the beginning of the month, with Gingrich at 14%, down from 33% in the previous poll. Since Gingrich's rise late last month and early this month in both national and early voting state surveys, he's come under attack by many of the rival campaigns.

If Santorum finishes third or second, that's his ticket to go on to New Hampshire - a place that he has little organization. Still, momentum is a good thing to have and while Romney appears pretty safe at this point in NH, social conservatives - Santorum's strength - are much more prevelant in South Carolina. It is not at all impossible that Santorum could emerge as Romney's main rival in the next few weeks - if he can get the funding and build an organization in other states quickly.

Gingrich may have bottomed out which can only be good news for him. He can challenge Romney in South Carolina and perhaps Florida but at this point, his campaign still looks far behind the curve in organizational strength. Money also may become a problem if he disappears in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Still time for a surprise in Iowa.