In 2008 more than 60% of Iowa Republican caucus voters identified themselves as Evangelical Christians. This should not be underestimated but instead understood as the key dynamic in determining who will be awarded the all important first delegates out of Iowa. Romney was able to do well in the major metropolitan areas of Des Moines, Debuque, Cedar Rapids, Sioux City and the eastern suburbs of Omaha. While Huckabee won almost every rural county in the state. This lead Huckabee to a solid 40,000 (34%) to 30,000 (25%) victory over Romney. Evangelicals went for Huckabee over Romney at a 2 to 1 ratio.
When applying what was learned in the 2008 caucuses to the 2012 caucus picture things begin to become more clear. The last Des Moines Register poll taken October 23-26 had Herman Cain in the lead with 23%, Romney with 22%, Paul with 12%, Bachmann 8%, Perry 7%, Gingrich 7% and Santorum 5%. (It is important to note that the Des Moines Register got the 2008 caucus right in its polling days before the caucus candidate for candidate within 1% point.)
Whether it is fair or not, Herman Cain is effectively done, he does not recover from the current sexual allegations from the four women and counting. There is no way he recovers in less than two months with Iowa evangelical voters. So where does his support go? Some of it will likely return to Bachmann or Perry, both of whom enjoyed close to the numbers Cain received in the October poll. Santorum might also get a second look from a few desperate voters. Romney is essentially where he is going to be until caucus day. 25% is his ceiling in Iowa as demonstrated over the course of now five years of polling. I believe Gingrich also has a ceiling, essentially the second tier to Romney's vote in the metropolitan areas of the state, but he is unlikely to receive the majority of the evangelical vote.
This leaves us with Ron Paul. Ron Paul has hit the airwaves early and often in Iowa. Interestingly he is exactly where Huckabee was in the 2008 national polls on 11/8, just above 8%. Paul has been courting the evangelical vote with commercials such as this one which began running in Iowa three weeks ago. Then there is Ron Paul's ground game. His supporters have mastered the straw poll. He has won the straw polls of the Values Voter Summit, California Republican Party and the Illinois Republican Party. And in Iowa Paul came in second at the Ames Straw poll and won the National Federation of Republican Assemblies in Des Moines. The Iowa Caucuses are essentially a statewide super straw poll. Straw polls are taken at each location and then delegates cast their votes. The delegates are encouraged but not mandated to cast their votes as representations of the straw poll. The Paul camp will likely be well prepared to lead in each of the county caucuses and vocal during the delegate selection process.
The key thing to watch for in the next few weeks is the release of the November Dem Moines Register poll. We will get an indication where Cain's support moved. While several candidates will get a boost in the November poll, by December we will begin to see a consolidation of the evangelical vote behind one lucky candidate that will likely be the winner.
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About the Author: William is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee. His areas of focus include politics and economics.