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Inside the Iowa caucus poll numbers: Good news for Romney, bad for Gingrich

Days before the Iowa caucus, the latest CNN/Time/ORC poll has Romney ahead of Paul, with Gingrich falling way behind his earlier strong standing and now trailing Santorum.

By Staff writer / December 28, 2011

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney greets voters at Homer's Deli and Bakery in Clinton, Iowa Wednesday, December 28, ahead of the Iowa Caucuses on January 3, 2012.

Brian Snyder/Reuters

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With the Iowa caucuses just six days away, the latest poll is good news for Mitt Romney and bad news for Newt Gingrich. It also shows a bit of a surge for Rick Santorum, who now leads the second tier of candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination – particularly among evangelical Christians drawn to his clear and consistent positions on such issues as abortion and same-sex marriage.

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A CNN/Time/ORC International Poll Wednesday finds these results among Republicans who say they’re likely to participate in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses: Romney 25 percent, Ron Paul 22 percent, Rick Santorum 16 percent, Gingrich 14 percent, Rick Perry 11 percent, Michele Bachmann 9 percent, and Jon Huntsman 1 percent.

The three-point spread between Romney and Paul is within the survey’s margin of error, so the two can legitimately claim to be front-runners.

Romney and Paul are each up five points among likely caucus goers from a CNN/Time/ORC poll conducted at the start of December, reports CNN.

Meanwhile, Santorum and Gingrich passed each other going in opposite directions: Former US Senator Santorum is up 11 percentage points, former House Speaker Gingrich plunged 19 points.

"Most of Santorum's gains have come among likely caucus participants who are born-again or evangelical, and he now tops the list among that crucial voting bloc, with support from 22 percent of born-agains compared to 18 percent for Paul, 16 percent for Romney, and 14 percent for Gingrich," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

Still, Wednesday’s poll does not cement any likely outcome next Tuesday.

Santorum and Paul may benefit from lower turnout, since they lead among likely voters who say that “nothing at all” would prevent them from attending the caucus, the poll finds. For his part, Romney appears to have an edge among those who attended the caucuses four years ago, and he does best among older Republicans in Iowa.

"Add in the fact that nearly half of Iowa respondents say they are undecided or could change their minds and it looks like Iowa is a wide open contest," says Mr. Holland.

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