Iowa Poll has Cain and Romney neck-and-neck, Bachmann far behind

The latest Iowa Poll shows Herman Cain and Mitt Romney in a dead heat among Republicans likely to vote in January’s caucuses. Michele Bachmann, who once led the pack, is far behind.

Chris Carlson/AP
Businessman Herman Cain and Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney before a Republican presidential debate Oct. 18 in Las Vegas. The latest Iowa Poll shows Cain and Romney in a dead heat among likely participants in Iowa caucuses Jan. 3 to select the GOP presidential nominee.

The latest Iowa Poll shows Herman Cain and Mitt Romney in a dead heat among Republicans likely to vote in January’s nominating caucuses there. Back among the also-rans – and significantly so – is Michele Bachmann, an Iowa native who’s campaigned heavily in the state and is counting on it to propel her forward during the primary season.

Cain and Romney were statistically tied among the 400 likely Republican caucus goers interviewed by phone with 23 percent and 22 percent of the vote respectively and a margin of error just under 5 percent.

Ron Paul came in third with 12 percent with the rest of the candidates in single digits: Bachmann 8 percent, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich with 7 percent each, Rick Santorum with 5 percent, and Jon Huntsman with 1 percent.

The Iowa Poll, conducted for the Des Moines Register newspaper since 1943, is an important indicator of how the candidates are doing in a state that holds the Republican Party’s first event in the selection process (Jan. 3). Doing well there can give a significant boost to a campaign headed for early primary elections in New Hampshire (Jan. 10), South Carolina (Jan. 21), and Florida (Jan. 31).

The results, which were gathered Oct. 23-29 and released Saturday night, are particularly disappointing for Bachmann and Santorum. In the last such poll, Bachmann with 22 percent was just a single point behind frontrunner Romney, and in August she won the Iowa straw poll with 29 percent.

Since then, she’s been overshadowed as the presumptive tea party favorite by Cain and Perry, and she’s had campaign problems – including misstatements she’s had to explain and the resignation of her staff in New Hampshire.

In terms of the Iowa Poll, Cain and Bachmann are mirror images of each other. Since the last Iowa Poll in June, she’s dropped 14 points and he’s surged ahead 13 points.

Santorum has never broken out of the second tier of GOP presidential hopefuls, but he’s campaigned heavily in Iowa, spending more time there than any other candidate and visiting 70 counties on his way toward his goal of visiting all 99 counties in the state.

Romney and Cain, on the other hand, have spent little time in Iowa so far, but that’s likely to change.

"I will be here again and again, campaigning here,” Romney told voters at a campaign event at Morningside College in Sioux City earlier this month. “I'd love to win Iowa. Any of us would.”

Perry, a late-entry in the race who came out fast but has stumbled in the debates and with other distractions, hopes to improve his standing between now and the January 3 caucuses less than 10 weeks from now. He began running TV ads last week.

Among other recent polls conducted in Iowa, either Romney or Cain is ahead by a fraction. The latest Real Clear Politics average of national polls of Republican voters reflects the same neck-and-neck positions of Cain (25 percent) and Romney (24 percent).

Like Republicans in the rest of the country, Iowans seem far from settled on who their strongest candidate would be.

"It's anybody's game right now,” Tamara Scott, an undecided social conservative leader who backed Mike Huckabee four years ago, told the Associated Press.

"This is the first time I've waited this long to decide," said Linda Allison, who recently attended a Perry event. "I am still waiting to be convinced."

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