According to a new poll by Public Policy Polling, Ron Paul has taken the lead in Iowa with 23 percent, followed by Mitt Romney at 20 percent and Newt Gingrich at 14 percent.
But questions have arisen about the poll, indicating it may be what pollsters call an “outlier.”
Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, for example, questions PPP’s definition of “likely” caucus-goers:
PPP says that they are polling likely Republican caucus-goers, but there’s a reason for a little skepticism on their sample. At 597 respondents, the size is respectable enough, but its composition and definition of “likely” is quite shaky. Only a little over half (55%) bothered to caucus with Republicans in 2008, an election primary with as much publicity and import as this one. Thirteen percent caucused with the Democrats, which is reasonable because (a) Democrats aren’t conducting a primary this cycle, and (b) some who caucused with Democrats might be inclined to support Republicans this year.
However, almost a third (32%) didn’t caucus with either party in 2008. How can they be considered “likely” caucus-goers in this cycle? It can’t be because Ron Paul is running this time, because he was running in 2008 as well.
According to Real Clear Politics, a December 18 Insider Advantage poll of 391 likely voters showed Paul at 24 percent over Romney at 18 percent and Gingrich at 13 percent. The Real Clear Politics average currently shows Paul with a 1.4 percent advantage over the other candidates.
Neil Stevens, however, says the PPP poll simply does not match reality:
The problem with the poll is that it’s just not likely to be true, though. We have a benchmark for evaluating this poll: 2008 Iowa caucus entrance polls. The partisan alignment is all wrong: In 2008 the caucuses, being closed of course, included 86% self-identified Republicans, 13% self-identified Independents who presumably registered Republican to caucus, 1% Democrats, 1% “Other.” PPP’s poll drops the Republican proportion to 75%, raises Independents to 19%, and raises Democrats to 5%. Guess who’s helped by both of those shifts, which are far outside the Margin of Error and so predict genuine, large shifts in the partisan makeup of the closed Iowa caucuses. That’s right: Ron Paul, who wins 40% of Democrats, 34% of Independents, but only 19% of Republicans according to the poll.
He notes three possibilities:
The 2008 entrance polls are wrong. The 2012 Republican caucuses will find huge new turnout from independent voters showing up and registering Republican. The PPP poll has systemic issues and is not meaningful.
Other suspicious bits: Do we really believe that 36% of “Very liberal” Iowa caucusers went for Mike Huckabee and not Rudy Giuliani or John McCain? Do we believe the Republican Party’s makeup has shifted so that John McCain would have tied for second in Iowa in 2008? That’s what PPP says: Huckabee 26%, Romney and McCain 19%. Remember that the actual result was Huckabee 34, Romney 25, Fred Thompson 13, McCain 13.
It is true that Paul has outorganized and outcampaigned his rivals in Iowa. It is also true that both Romney and Gingrich have come under intense scrutiny over the last few days. Can Paul win in Iowa? Sure.
As a post at Patterico observes:
Granted, the PPP poll can be criticized, as his support comes disporportionately from young voters and those who identify as either Democrats or independents. However, despite Iowa being a closed caucus, you can register to participate right up to caucus day. If Paul can get these people to sign up, it’s a good bet they’ll caucus.
But what would happen if Paul emerges victorious in Iowa?
According to Morrissey:
If Iowa picks Ron Paul as its caucus winner, two things will result. First, Mitt Romney will probably run the table as Republicans everywhere else but Iowa recoil in horror. Second, Iowa will likely end up losing whatever cachet it has managed to build over the last three decades as a first-in-the-nation proving ground for presidential candidates, and the drumbeat to unseat both Iowa and New Hampshire from the front end of the primary system will prove irresistible.
Paul would also find himself coming under the same intense scrutiny that other GOP front-runners have experienced. No doubt that criticism will cause heads to explode among Paul’s more strident supporters who view anyone critical of the Texas Congressman as unpatriotic, warmongering “neo-cons.”
“Paul’s indiscretions — such as abiding 9/11 conspiracy theorists and allowing racist material in a newsletter published under his name — will be blown up to paint a scary caricature. His belief in state’s rights and property rights will be distorted into support for Jim Crow and racism,” wrote Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner, who admits that some of Paul’s trangressions “reflect badly on Paul.”
“Others,” he adds, “reflect badly on the party.”
Carney adds that Paul “wrote the foreword to” his 2009 book.
But that’s the price of being in the lead. Just ask Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich.
More on Ron Paul at lodeplus.com can be found here.
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