Paul holds a slim lead over Romney in first post-Christmas Iowa poll

With the Iowa caucus one week away, Ron Paul is standing his ground in Iowa, according to a Public Policy Poll released Wednesday.

Paul leads the field with 24 percent, but Mitt Romney is a close second at 20 percent.

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The survey of 565 likely Republican caucus-goers was conducted Dec. 26-27, indicating that so far Paul has weathered the intense media focus and attacks from his rivals centered on the controversial newsletters that bear the Texas congressman’s name and some of his foreign policy views that fall outside of the mainstream.

The poll showed a continuing sharp decline in Newt Gingrich’s support, as the former House Speaker finished a distant third at 13 percent. Only a month ago, Gingrich led the field at 27 percent, but his decision not to counter the barrage of attack ads against him in Iowa seems to have sunk him for now.

Only 37 percent of Iowans now have a favorable view of Gingrich, while 54 percent say they have an unfavorable view.

Rounding out the field are Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) at 11 percent, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) at 10 percent each. 

Poll watchers in the state are keeping a close watch on those three candidates, as many believe Iowa’s conservative Christian bloc could turn out to provide a surprise showing for one of them. Those voters turned out in 2008 and propelled former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to victory. 

Some are whispering that Santorum could be the beneficiary of a late surge. He has been the only second-tier candidate not to surge in this primary season, but has spent the most time in Iowa and has the best favorability numbers in the field, with 56 percent saying they view him favorably, compared to only 29 percent who have an unfavorable view.

Santorum is also the most frequent second choice of voters at 14 percent. 

But according to PPP, Paul has to be considered the front-runner in Iowa. He leads the field with the most “strongly committed” voters, which will be an asset in Iowa’s caucus-style election, and some believe this year’s caucus will turn out a large number of young voters, with whom Paul has a 35 percent to 11 percent advantage over Romney.


More campaign news from The Hill:
♦ Paul hits Romney with negative ad
♦ Lawmakers claim Gingrich lobbied them
♦ Mitt Romney’s juggling act
♦ Make or break time in Iowa

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