Romney tops Jeb in new Iowa poll

With Mitt Romney an all but announced candidate for president, a new Iowa poll shows him ahead of one of his main rivals, Jeb Bush, by 21-14%. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker finished 3rd with 10%, just ahead of Mike Huckabee's 9%.

The poll, conducted by conservative publication Townhall and Gravis Marketing, and has a sampling error of 3%.

Former Massachusetts governor W. Mitt Romney has never left the hearts and minds of Republican voters and he will hold the dominant position in the race for the 2016 presidential nomination until the other candidates spin up their own campaigns, said Doug Kaplan, the managing partner of Gravis Marketing, a Florida-based pollster and call center that executed the poll. The poll carries an error rate of 3 percent.

“Romney’s name recognition and the loyalty Republicans have for their last nominee give him a opportunity that no one else has,” Kaplan said. “The question is whether he will use or let the chance pass to others.”

After two years of dampening expectations, Romney—spooked by Bush’s momentum—is now working to the phones in order to put the band together for one more national tour.

While Romney decides what to do, the GOP race revolves around former Florida governor John E. “Jeb” Bush, the choice of 14 percent, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott K. Walker, polling at 10 percent.

Bush, the son of President George H. W. Bush and a younger brother of President George W. Bush, went from a stealth candidate over Thanksgiving to today’s full-blown exploratory candidate.

Although he is portrayed as a white bread patrician in the press, Bush ran Florida for eight years as a red-meat-movement-conservative cutting taxes, holding teachers accountable and expanding gun rights. A Catholic convert, Bush is married to the daughter of a Mexican migrant worker and speaks Spanish without the effort his brother W. exerted.

Of course, the defining moment of Bush’s tenure was his extreme effort in the losing battle to save the life of Terry Schiavo.

Walker, the governor of Iowa’s northeast border, signaled his intention to run with the New Year announcements of his presidential campaign team: Rick Wiley, campaign manager; Nicole Tieman, press secretary; Colleen Coyle, finance director, as well as, other staffers: Stephan Thompson, Jonathan Wetzel and Keith Gilkes.

Walker, Bush, and Romney together are at 46%. None are what you might call "Ted Cruz conservatives." But Romney's entrance in the race may be a godsend for Cruz, Rand Paul, and any other conservative that the base favors.

In the past, conservative primary voters have split their votes among 3 or 4 candidates. This time around, it will be the moderates splitting their votes as well. That means if a moderate emerges as a front runner, he will be getting fewer delegates in every primary, allowing a conservative candidate to maintain contact. When the field winnows down, a more conservative candidate will still have a shot at the nomination, unlike the last two election cycles where McCain and Romney had huge leads after the March primaries.

It's a scenario that probably worries Reince Priebus but should give heart to the conservative base. The point is, Romney's entrance in the race means that it will be a wide open contest probably well into the primary season.