Independents buoyed Paul in the ARG poll, as he took 33 percent of the their vote, followed by Gingrich and Romney at 17 percent each.

Overall Paul is up 5 percent from November, when he came in at 16 percent.

But as the latest candidate to surge, Paul is already finding himself as the focus of intense media scrutiny. The Texas representative is once again having to explain his connection to newsletters from the 1980s and '90s that bear his name and contain racist ideas and comments.

Earlier this week Paul walked out of an interview with CNN’s Gloria Borger, who pressed him on what he knew about the writings at the time they were published.

“I never read that stuff,” Paul said. “I was probably aware of it 10 years after it was written. And it’s been going on 20 years that people have pestered me about this. And CNN does it every single time."

Gingrich, the latest GOP candidate to surge, has wilted in recent weeks due to increased scrutiny of his record, divorces and ties to Freddie Mac. Gingrich has dropped eight points in Iowa since November, when he peaked at 27 percent.

Romney remains unchanged from November, at 20 percent.