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UPDATE: Don't look now, but Rick Santorum just could make this Iowa caucus interesting.
A new NBC/Marist poll released Friday (PDF here) shows Santorum's support at 15 percent, not far behind leaders Mitt Romney (23 percent) and Ron Paul (21). That's remarkably consistent with a Rasmussen poll released Thursday, which put Romney at 23, Paul at 22, and Santorum at 16.
The hard-line conservative appears to be the latest longshot Republican candidate to capitalize on a relative lack of media scrutiny to shoot toward the top of the polls. He leads among the half of likely Iowa caucus-goers who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters, the Los Angeles Times notes.
Rick Perry has also gotten a bump in the latest Iowa polls, up to 14 percent from 9 percent last month, as voters flee Newt Gingrich, whose support has plummeted to fifth place at 13 percent.
UPDATE Wednesday, Dec. 28 at 4:32 p.m.: A new batch of poll numbers are out, via CNN, showing Mitt Romney out in front in the Hawkeye State with a slight lead on Ron Paul. The gap is within the margin of error, however, so the top of the survey largely echoes the PPP poll from earlier Wednesday.
Here are the big numbers in the CNN poll: Romney 25, Paul 22, Rick Santorum 16, Newt Gingrich 14, Rick Perry 11, Michele Bachmann 9, Jon Huntsman 1.
The major news is that Romney and Paul have cemented their Iowa frontrunner status with less than a week to go until the Jan. 3 caucuses. But the other important takeaways are Gingrich's fall (down from 33 percent in the same poll only weeks ago) and Santorum's rise (up 11 points since the start of the month).
Wednesday, Dec. 28 at 9:30 a.m.: Iowa is looking like a two-man race.
The latest numbers from Public Policy Polling show Ron Paul with 4 percent lead on Mitt Romney in the Hawkeye State, 24 to 20, with one week to go before the first-in-the-nation nominating contest. Last week, Paul led Romney 23-20 in the same survey.
Here are the numbers for the rest of the candidates, which are more or less unchanged from one week ago: Newt Gingrich 13, Michele Bachmann 11, Rick Perry 10, Rick Santorum 10, Jon Huntsman 4 and Buddy Roemer 2 percent.
Paul has managed to win over a large chunk of Iowa’s independents and Democrats, and has a 39-12 lead over Romney in that group. Romney, meanwhile, is up 22-20 among those who are actually Republicans.
One big surprise from the poll: Romney is leading among regular Fox News viewers, easily besting Gingrich 27 percent to 16 among that demographic. Only 12 percent of those who are regular watchers of the cable news network say they plan on backing Paul in the Jan. 3 caucuses. The libertarian-leading lawmaker, however, leads Romney by 25 points (38-13) with the roughly half of likely caucus voters who do not regularly watch Fox News.
Full numbers here. FYI: PPP is a Democratic polling firm, but its results traditionally are in line with other major pollsters.