PPP’s strange idea of “likely caucus-goer” feeds photo-finish meme

posted at 8:45 am on January 2, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

In some ways, the latest PPP poll is a bit of an outlier.  While three successive polls last week showed Mitt Romney slightly ahead of Ron Paul in Iowa, PPP shows Paul still barely edging Romney 20/19.  But Paul has suffered the most significant drop in support in the last few days, and Rick Santorum has shown the biggest surge — making this a “photo finish”:

The momentum in the race is completely on Santorum’s side. He’s moved up 8 points since a PPP poll earlier in the week, while no one else has seen more than a one point gain in their support. Among voters who say they decided who to vote for in the last seven days he leads Romney 29-17 with Paul and Gingrich both at 13.

Santorum’s net favorability of 60/30 makes him easily the most popular candidate in the field. No one else’s favorability exceeds 52%.  He may also have more room to grow in the final 48 hours of the campaign than the other front runners: 14% of voters say he’s their second choice to 11% for Romney and only 8% for Paul. Santorum’s taken the lead with two key groups of Republican voters: with Tea Partiers he’s at 23% to 18% for Gingrich, 16% for Paul, 15% for Bachmann, and only 12% for Romney.  And with Evangelicals he’s at 24% to 16% for Gingrich, and 15% for Paul and Romney.

Other than Santorum’s rise the other big story of this week is Paul’s fall.  He was at 24% earlier in the week but has dropped to 20%. That decline in support coincides with a precipitous drop in his favorability numbers. On our last poll he was at +13 (53/40), but that’s gone down 21 points on the margin to -8 (43/51).

As a series, the PPP poll has picked up on the trends in the race as well as the other pollsters. The last-minute surge for Santorum seen in the other three polls is confirmed in this survey.  The drop-off for Paul looks more dramatic than in the other three, but PPP polled a couple of days later than most of the others, too.

As a discrete predictive survey, this poll has some issues, and those issues tend to favor Paul disproportionately.  PPP surveyed “1,340 likely Republican caucus voters on December 31st  and January 1st,” two days when most people had better things to do than to answer questions about politics.  In contrast, the Des Moines Register poll took place over four days ending on Friday. More to the point, though, only half of the “1,340 likely Republican caucus voters” surveyed by PPP caucused with Republicans in 2008.  Sixteen percent caucused with Democrats in that cycle, and over a third (34%) didn’t caucus with either party in 2008.  Not shockingly, Paul wins 23% of those who didn’t caucus at all in 2008, and 28% among those who caucused with the Democrats.

Surely some newbies and Democrats will caucus on Tuesday with Republicans, but I seriously doubt they will comprise half of all caucus-goers — who, after all, could have caucused with Paul in 2008 as well.  When was the last time that overall attendance at an Iowa caucus doubled over a previous non-incumbent cycle with a flood of newbies and members of the opposition party?  That’s the predictive model that PPP used in this poll, and using that long-shot scenario practically defines the term outlier in predictive polling.

Among Republicans, Romney leads with 22%, followed by Santorum at 20%, and a tie between Paul and Newt Gingrich at 16%.  Given the trend lines seen in all four last-week polls, I’d guess that this looks like a better predictor of the final result.


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Why doesn’t Iowa just have a primary election like other states? This caucus system is practically a guarantee of low turnout and having the results skewed in favor by the zealots. Sandtorum has no staying power outside Iowa. If he plans to visit every county in the country in his pickup, he’d better get busy. His win in the caucuses could end up being about as important as Bachman’s Straw Poll Win was.

flataffect on January 2, 2012 at 2:46 PM

The good thing about PPP’s polls is that they release detailed crosstabs, so you can see exactly where their numbers are coming from. And it’s the big reason why I put more weight on their polling.

Surely some newbies and Democrats will caucus on Tuesday with Republicans, but I seriously doubt they will comprise half of all caucus-goers — who, after all, could have caucused with Paul in 2008 as well.

That same voting bloc was heavily targeted by the Obama campaign in ’08. Since then, Obama has betrayed the progressives with things like signing the NDAA, bailing out the banks, etc. These are all issues Paul has always been strong on, which is why the disenfranchised Democrats are giving Paul another look.

gyrmnix on January 2, 2012 at 3:11 PM

Why doesn’t Iowa just have a primary election like other states? This caucus system is practically a guarantee of low turnout …flataffect

You’re right about the turnout. The sample is small so in a way it’s less acurate but Iowa never picks an extremist.

Watching from my state, I like the caucus system. You are forced to argue for your candidate just before you cast the vote +++:)

Iowa is doing a good job of introducing the candidates to the rest of us. They take it seriously. It’s not Iowa’s fault if the field is below average.

BoxHead1 on January 2, 2012 at 3:25 PM

From the brilliant mind of Rick Santorum…

Referring to Romney’s argument that his business career makes him well-suited to the presidency, Santorum said, “We’re not looking for a chief executive officer. We’re looking for a commander in chief.”

http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/gop-primaries/201943-one-day-out-from-iowa-caucuses-santorum-focuses-attac

According to Article II, Section 1, Clause 1 of the Constitution

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.

The very first clause of the first section of Article II of the Constitution outlines that the President is the Chief Executive and it is section 2 of Article II that outlines what those executive powers entail, among them being “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.”

Rick Santorum, R-PA, formerly third ranking Republican in the Senate did not serve in the military.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney – did not serve in the military but did serve the Mormon Church on a 30-month mission to France. Served one term as Gov. of MA.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich – avoided the draft, did not serve in the military. no elected executive experience.


Perry is the longest serving Governor in Texas History and served as a volunteer in the US Air Force as a C-130 Pilot from 1972 – 1977

workingclass artist on January 2, 2012 at 3:26 PM

And none of this applies to Ron Paul?

Why doesn’t Iowa just have a primary election like other states? This caucus system is practically a guarantee of low turnout and having the results skewed in favor by the zealots. Sandtorum has no staying power outside Iowa. If he plans to visit every county in the country in his pickup, he’d better get busy. His win in the caucuses could end up being about as important as Bachman’s Straw Poll Win was.

flataffect on January 2, 2012 at 2:46 PM

KOOLAID2 on January 2, 2012 at 3:37 PM

KOOLAID2 on January 2, 2012 at 3:37 PM

Santorum has nowhere to go after Iowa. Win or lose, his campaign is effectively over after Iowa.

Ron Paul has a path to the nomination, as unlikely as it may be, it exists. He has fair to strong support in states outside of Iowa (other than SC and FL, which is what makes his path so unlikely). Nevada, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota and Washington are all pre-super tuesday contests that Paul has strong support in.

gyrmnix on January 2, 2012 at 4:00 PM

Nevada, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota and Washington are all pre-super tuesday contests that Paul has strong support in.

gyrmnix on January 2, 2012 at 4:00 PM

Didn’t realize that…thought he was a one-horse race pony with a shot at NH too. (I’m googling!) Thanks.

KOOLAID2 on January 2, 2012 at 4:10 PM

KOOLAID2 on January 2, 2012 at 4:10 PM

I should mention that I am a Paul supporter and I got that information about those states from the Paul campaign. So, it could just be typical campaign propaganda (like how Romney’s, Santorum’s and Paul’s campaigns are all saying they’re going to win tomorrow). But, considering 2008′s results for those states, I’m inclined to believe them. Paul outperformed in those states 4 years ago, and they’re caucus states. He also already has his organization up and running there as well, so they’re pretty confident in those states.

Like I said, it’s a very unlikely path. Paul and Romney are the only candidates with the support and money to go the distance, and Romney is the candidate that the GOP base is more likely to coalesce around. I believe that the nomination is Romney’s to lose.

gyrmnix on January 2, 2012 at 4:30 PM

Hmmmmm….

“There are 2,286 delegates awarded in the GOP primaries and caucuses; the nomination thus requires wrapping up 1,143 delegates. Between them, Iowa and New Hampshire award 10 delegates; South Carolina and Florida, the other two states voting later this month, award 75. By contrast, three states (California, Texas and New York) award a combined 422 delegates, more than a third of the total needed to win. So, the race is far from over after New Hampshire, and as long as there is credible opposition, it can go on for quite a while after South Carolina and Florida as well…

Then there’s Perry. Let me go out on a limb: if Perry finishes third in Iowa, he’ll be the nominee. He’s the guy best suited by money, organization and resume to capitalize on a strong Iowa showing, which is why Romney’s media allies have been talking up Santorum’s momentum instead. I don’t expect Perry to finish third; he’s polling fifth, and is probably most likely to finish fourth behind Romney, Paul and Santorum. Perry can afford that, if it’s a respectable fourth: if Newt and Bachmann end up out of the race, Perry can make a solid argument that he’s still the only credible alternative to Romney, and his style is clearly more suited to running in southern states like South Carolina and Florida. Perry’s debate stumbles buried him for a while, but more than one candidate in this race has gotten a second look as the wheel continues to turn; but he needs to show that his hard work in Iowa of late has yielded some sort of progress. A fifth place showing behind both Newt and Santorum will put him on the ropes – not out just yet, perhaps, but with a much more complicated road to climbing over both to win South Carolina…” – Dan McLaughlin

http://www.redstate.com/dan_mclaughlin/2012/01/02/the-conservative-race-in-iowa/

workingclass artist on January 2, 2012 at 6:09 PM

So….what do we talk about tomorrow after this caucus circus passes?

Trump?….howzabout a Romney/Rubio ticket? Krauthammer is hot on that linkup.

timberline on January 3, 2012 at 8:58 AM

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