ARG poll puts Gingrich up 27/20 over Romney in Iowa

I missed this ARG poll from just before Thanksgiving, taken over the course of a week among 600 likely Iowa caucus-goers, but it’s worth a look now.  The top line results show Newt Gingrich moving into first place over Mitt Romney, 27% to 20%, with Ron Paul not too far back in third at 16%.  No other candidate gets double digits in this result.

That more or less lines up with what other polling has shown.  A survey taken a week previous to ARG’s by Rasmussen showed an even more substantial lead for Gingrich, 32/19, with Herman Cain falling into third place with 13%, and Paul fourth at 10%.  Cain’s continued decline seems to have continued into the next week, perhaps giving Paul more support in the same period.

In the ARG series, this is Gingrich’s best showing since April, when he came in third behind Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney.  The bimonthly survey series never showed Gingrich completely out of the running in Iowa, sticking at 8% over the summer while Michele Bachmann peaked at 21% in July and Romney peaked at the same 21% in late September.  Thanks to the timing of the ARG surveys, the Cain boomlet never shows up on this series, and he’s back to the same 6% he had in September. Ron Paul, however, has hit the highest level of support in the series, better than July’s 14%, but he’s still not broken above third place.

There are a couple of intriguing points in the internals.  First, Gingrich has a huge lead among Republicans (30/17 over Romney) but tanks to 3% among independent caucusgoers, while Romney leads 38% to Ron Paul’s 28% in this demographic.  Gingrich nearly gets a majority of Tea Party supporters (42%), but comes in a distant second among those who don’t identify with the Tea Party, 29/13 behind Romney and just ahead of Paul’s 12%.  But perhaps the most indicative figure — for now, anyway — is Gingrich’s substantial lead among the most likely to attend a caucus, 32/17 over Paul, a group that comprises 74% of the sample.  Among the other 26%, Romney leads 38/12 over Gingrich and Paul.

Enthusiasm seems to be on Gingrich’s side.  Romney can claim some moral victory and momentum with a second-place finish no matter who wins, but a Gingrich win will complicate his ability to argue inevitability and lock down the nomination in South Carolina.

On the other hand, we’ve gotten a lot of e-mail about a PAC-funded survey that shows Ron Paul and Herman Cain tied for the lead in Iowa at 22% each, with Gingrich at 21% and Romney at 17%.  However, since that survey got funded by the Revolution PAC — the super-PAC backing Paul — it should be taken with a Lot’s Wife-sized grain of salt.