The final Public Policy Polling data is in, and the top three are in a virtual dead heat.
The Republican caucus in Iowa is headed for a photo finish, with the three leading contenders all within two points of each other. Ron Paul is at 20%, Mitt Romney at 19%, and Rick Santorum at 18%. Rounding out the field are Newt Gingrich at 14%, Rick Perry at 10%, Michele Bachmann at 8%, Jon Huntsman at 4%, and Buddy Roemer at 2%.
I suspect that we’re on our way towards a meaningless Ron Paul victory in Iowa. That allowed, Santorum, the social conservative, is surging, and if he finishes ahead of Romney that might actually mean something. Newt is fading and will likely drop out after New Hampshire.
My big question is whether Bachmann drops out (as she should) once Iowa is over, and where her support ends up going. I’d be very surprised if her endorsement goes to anyone other than Romney, but I don’t think her endorsement means a lot. I’d being interested to see if Bachmann and Gingrich supporters fall in line with Romney as the “inevitable” GOP establishment nominee, or if they’ll revolt and line up behind Santorum or Perry.
I’m going to continue standing behind Perry as the best executive in the race as proven by his record as governor (especially when compared against Romney’s record), but retail politics is about image over substance, I don’t know that he’ll be able to garner enough support to overtake Romney or the other not-Romneys.