Surprise, Surprise: The Des Moines Register sure just made some news with its first poll of likely Republican caucus goers for 2012. It was our understanding the poll would go up live on the Register's site at 9pm central, but it's already all over the internet about an hour early.
Nevertheless, here's my take, along with the results:
Mitt Romney: 23%. I feel surprised and not surprised by Romney's place. He's not showing Iowans much love so far this cycle but spent a bunch of time and dough in the state for 2008. So his name i.d. remains high. I wondered if more Iowans would "punish" him for skipping the state for the most part this cycle. But that doesn't really seem to be the case, at least not yet. What will this news do for the Romney camp? Will he skip the Republican Party of Iowa Straw Poll and then pick up the pace in the state after that if his poll standing stays high? Or does he think this poll shows he will do pretty well, even without spending much time here in the next 7 months, so he can save his time and money for New Hampshire and other states?
Michele Bachmann: 22%. She has to be the biggest positive surprise of the poll. And it could make for a nice weekend for her as she gets set to announce her campaign in her hometown of Waterloo in northeastern Iowa. O.K., it's really her "re-announcement" since she already announced during the CNN debate this month. Either way, this has to give her supporters a big lift. Will her campaign now show the organization and discipline it needs to carry through with a strong straw poll finish in August? And can she handle the raised expectations that will now follow thanks to this strong showing? She recently faced more "quiet" talk in Iowa that she could be one of the frontrunners. But this poll will now only intensify that talk. But it sure looks like she found a way to get back some of the attention Sarah Palin's Iowa visit this Tuesday threatened to take away, huh?
Herman Cain: 10%. I'm a bit surprised by this. He has been campaigning all over the state but I didn't know if enough Iowans knew him yet. I guess they do. I'm sure not what kind of campaign organization he has. He has some strength with the tea partiers and he knows how to fire up a crowd. I guess we'll find out in the next 7 weeks for the straw poll. But Cain has apparently made a name for himself so far. As a top 3 guy now in this poll, we will see how he faces the media scrutinty that could follow.
Newt Gingrich: 7%. I guess it's safe to say Iowa staffers aren't jumping up and down with this finish. Of course, he no longer has any paid Iowa staffers. Gingrich surely has some solid name recognition from his time in office. And this poll could show he has just a bit to go to find a top three finish. But will this month's implosion of his campaign push him down, especially since he didn't secure a site in the straw poll? And this poll was still interviewing caucus goers before his implosion had actually finished. So does it really reflect the state's full feelings toward him now? Or is this whole struggling campaign storyline overblown?
Ron Paul: 7%. I thought Paul might fare a little better. I thought he would come ahead of Cain and Gingrich. Paul has said his ideas are more mainstream this campaign, more so than the previous two times he's run for president. This poll shows he has a ways to go to find a strong showing. The straw poll could be a big test for his organizational strength to push him into the top tier.
Tim Pawlenty: 6%. Ouch. What more can you say? Pawlenty is essentially all in for Iowa. He has hired a big staff. But this poll doesn't show that he's connecting with people. He faces a TON of pressure in the next 7 weeks to up his standing for the straw poll. Does he have to shake up his staff? Does he have to change his message? Does he have to be more aggressive in his words and demeanor? What's next for him? If he doesn't pick it up, will he be done after the straw poll?
Rick Santorum: 4%. Santorum started out being not very well-known. This poll shows he has a long way to go to make a name for himself. He has spent as much time here as just about any other candidate. But it's not translating into supporters. If he finishes about this low in the straw poll, is his campaign finished?