Ron Paul's Latent Strength in Iowa

According to a new Bloomberg/Selzer and Company Iowa poll, there is a statistical four way tie for first place in the state that holds the nation’s first nominating contest. Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich received 20 percent, 19 percent, 18 percent, and 17 percent in the poll, respectively.

The crosstabs, though, show that Paul’s strength may be below the radar and underestimated.

Consider the percentage of those surveyed who would not vote for a candidate based on a various flaws they were asked about.

Thirty-three percent of those surveyed would rule out a candidate who has changed positions on abortion; 30 percent would for a candidate who has been accused of sexual harrasment; 15 percent for a candidate who has not campaigned much in Iowa; 48 percent if a candidate has been married three times and had extramarital affairs; 23 percent if a candidate has called for creating a new national sales tax; 28 percent if the candidate has called for eliminating energy subsidies, including those for ethanol; 42 percent if a candidate has supported in-state college tuition rates for American-born children of illegal immigrants; 58 percent if a candidate has favored a mandate to buy health insurance; 40 percent if a candidate has worked for the Obama.

From the above results, it is safe to assume that nearly half of those surveyed will not vote for Gingrich (marital problems), Romney (individual mandate), and Perry (in-state tuition to illegal immigrants).

Now consider that only 29 percent of those surveyed have made up their minds while 60 percent could still be persuaded to change their minds.

Further, of those surveyed, 14 percent voted for Romney in 2008. Romney is relying on lowering expectations in Iowa and hoping that his base of support from 2008 remains with him to give him a strong showing.

But Paul has a similar base of supporters from 2008, as nine percent of those surveyed said they caucused for Paul in 2008.

And when it comes to issues Iowans care most about, 66 percent said jobs were critical when asked, 74 percent said the economy was critical, 77 percent said government spending and reducing the debt were critical, 50 percent said taxes were while 33 percent said abortion was critical and only 28 percent said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were.

Paul’s foreign policy positions have drawn much ire from conservatives, but voters may be willing to overlook his stances on foreign policy if they support his views on reducing the debt and may reward him for being on the right side of the issue and having the party move toward him.

In fact, 71 percent of those surveyed said fiscal issues were the most important as opposed to 24 percent that said social issues were.

Out of all the candidates, Paul’s organization and ground game in Iowa seems to be outworking the other candidates. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they were contacted in some way by the Paul campaign.

If Iowans reward Paul’s campaign organization and his fiscal ideas, he can be a surprise winner on Caucus night as voters may vote based on process of elimination in this cycle.

Should Paul win in Iowa, he would surge in New Hampshire, where recent polling has him in second place, trailing Romney by 20 points, and give him a legitimate chance to win the nomination.