It’s crowded at the top of the Republican field in Iowa: Four candidates are clustered close to one another, statistically tied for the lead in the first-in-the-nation caucus state.
Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich earned 20 percent, 19 percent, 18 percent, and 17 percent, respectively, in a Bloomberg poll released Tuesday.
It’s a changed field from August, when Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann took first place in the Ames Straw Poll and Texas Governor Rick Perry, who entered the race that same day, soared immediately to stratospheric poll numbers. Now, Bachmann is at 5 percent and Perry is at 7 percent. Rick Santorum, who has campaigned in every single one of Iowa’s 99 counties, is stuck at 3 percent.
The Bloomberg poll seems to undermine some conventional wisdom about campaigning in Iowa, which suggests that in order to win, a candidate must spend the most time in the state, talk to the most voters face to face, and play to social conservatives.
Instead, two of the leaders — Cain and Romney — have spent minimal time in the state; Bachmann and Santorum, the candidates who have made social conservatism the biggest part of their platforms, are at the bottom.
The poll found that most Iowans have economic issues foremost in their minds, with 71 percent saying fiscal concerns are most important to them, while just 25 percent said social issues were more important.
Mirroring the national polls, Cain’s support has seen a slight decline as allegations of sexual harassment continue to appear in the news. He has lost 3 percentage points since a Des Moines Register poll was conducted at the end of October by the same firm conducting the newer Bloomberg poll. Bloomberg writes that his support is “softer,” meaning that his supporters could more easily defect to another candidate.
Just 29 percent said they believed Cain’s insistence that the sexual-harassment allegations were false, while 37 percent say they want more information before they decide. More than 25 percent of Iowans say they are skeptical of his denials, or think he is outright lying. But voters have not ruled him out yet: Over two-thirds say allegations of sexual harassment are not a deal-breaker.
In Iowa as nationally, Gingrich is rising as Cain falls. Since the Des Moines Register poll, Gingrich has jumped 10 points, from 7 percent to 17 percent, putting him in the top tier. But the former House Speaker could face a challenge with the electorate, almost half of whom say they wouldn’t vote for someone “who had been married multiple times and had an extramarital affair.”
The Bloomberg poll was conducted November 10–12 by Selzer & Co., and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.