Santorum Surging?

A new Iowa polls shows Rick Santorum gaining support. Or does it?

A new CNN/Time poll has the punditocracy all abuzz with the possibility that yet another candidate may be rising to the top of the frothy mixture that is the Republican race in Iowa:

Did Newt Gingrich peak too early? A new survey of people likely to attend Iowa’s Republican caucuses indicates that the former House speaker’s support in the Hawkeye State is plunging. And according to a CNN/Time/ORC International Poll, one-time long shot candidate Rick Santorum has more than tripled his support since the beginning of the month.

Twenty-five percent of people questioned say if the caucuses were held today, they’d most likely back Mitt Romney, with 22% saying they’d support Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Romney’s three point margin is within the poll’s sampling error.

(…)

In Iowa, both Romney and Paul are each up five points among likely caucus goers from a CNN/Time/ORC poll conducted at the start of December. The new survey indicates that Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, is at 16% support, up 11 points from the beginning of the month, with Gingrich at 14%, down from 33% in the previous poll. Since Gingrich’s rise late last month and early this month in both national and early voting state surveys, he’s come under attack by many of the rival campaigns…

Santorum is campaigning on a shoestring budget, but he’s visited all of Iowa’s 99 counties and has made a strong pitch towards social conservative voters, who are very influential here in Iowa on the Republican side. Wednesday Santorum was up with a new radio spot on Hawkeye State airwaves touting endorsements by social conservative leaders. His pitch may be starting to pay off.

“Most of Santorum’s gains have come among likely caucus participants who are born-again or evangelical, and he now tops the list among that crucial voting bloc, with support from 22% of born-agains compared to 18% for Paul, 16% for Romney, and 14% for Gingrich,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

The numbers for the entire field look like this:

  • Mitt Romney — 25%
  • Ron Paul — 22%
  • Rick Santorum — 16%
  • Newt Gingrich — 14%
  • Rick Perry — 11%
  • Michele Bachmann — 9%
  • Jon Huntsman 1%

A few caveats worth noting. The majority of the polling for this survey was done before the PPP poll that I noted this morning, and that poll showed no evidence of a Santorum bounce. Secondly, as Allahpundit notes, the sampling for the poll may not be accurately reflecting the likely caucus turnout:

According to the crosstabs, CNN only polled … registered Republicans in Iowa. That means they’re badly underestimating support for Paul, who’s cleaning up among Democrats and independents who are planning to vote in the caucuses. They polled New Hampshire too and did a bit better with that sample, including indies who are likely to vote (Romney leads Paul there by nearly 30 points), but I’m not sure the Iowa data is worth anything. Stick with PPP’s numbers for the time being: Paul 24, Romney 20, Gingrich 13, Bachmann 11.

And Public Policy Polling made this comment on its Twitter feed:

If we only polled registered Republicans in Iowa like CNN we’d have Romney ahead of Paul too…not how the rules work though

As I noted earlier, you have to be a registered Republican to participate in the caucuses, but you can register on site. So, the independents and Democrats that are the largest chunk of Ron Paul’s supporters will have no problem at all participating next Tuesday night. Therefore, the argument that Ed makes that this poll is flawed because of its limitation to registered Republicans has a lot of merit. The PPP poll seems far more reliable in that regard, and we need to see other polling from the Hawkeye State before we can say that Rick Santorum is finally getting the surge of support there that a lot of people thought he would get at some point in this race.

Nonetheless, Santorum is likely to get a lot of attention over the coming days because of this poll, and that itself may be the reason that he improves his position in Iowa.  But it’s hard to see how Santorum goes very far. Let’s assume he comes in third in New Hampshire, what then? For the past year or so, Santorum’s entire campaign has been based almost exclusively in Iowa. He doesn’t appear to have much of a campaign organization anywhere outside there with the possible exception of Pennsylvania. Additionally, his fundraising has been woeful to say the least, with about $700,000 coming in during the 3rd Quarter, and less than $600,000 in the 2nd Quarter. A good showing in Iowa gets Santorum a ticket to South Carolina and a credible argument to keep going, maybe it even brings in some bigger money, but it’s a bit late in the game to start running a real campaign against the likes of Gingrich, Romney, and Paul, and Rick Santorum has not been running a real campaign so far. The only way Santorum becomes a viable candidate is if Romney collapses, and if there’s 0ne thing we’ve learned in 2011 it is that Mitt Romney is not going to collapse.

Despite the unlikelihood that he would last long, the prospect of a Santorum surge is not pleasing conservatives like Erick Erickson:

Santorum has no money or organization outside of Iowa and cannot win the nomination, but Iowans love a guy who sucks up to them and makes sure they know he loves the babies.

As a pro-lifer myself, I have to throw up a bit in my mouth that Iowa conservatives are seriously considering Rick Santorum, which will only help Mitt Romney, a guy who even after his supposedly heartfelt conversion to life put some seriously pro-abortion judges on the Massachusetts bench hiding behind the “Well it was Massachusetts for Pete’s sake” defense.

Let’s remember Rick Santorum could not even win re-election in his home state of Pennsylvania.

Rick Santorum also supported Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey in the U.S. Senate back in 2004.

But most damning to me is Rick Santorum’s actual record in the Senate and House of Representatives. I keep hearing him say he was such a paragon of fiscal conservative virtue, when he was anything but that. He was as go along to get along as all the other Republicans who led to our downfall.

Making Santorum worse, he was always the guy saying, “I had to do this, but wait till I get to leadership. I’ll be there for you in leadership.” It’s what he is saying now. Only it isn’t true and never was.

He supported steel tariffs in Pennsylvania, which did him little good in his own re-election effort.

He supported No Child Left Behind.

He supported the prescription drug benefit.

He supported the Bridge to Nowhere. In fact, according to Club for Growth, “Santorum had the audacity to vote to continue funding the Bridge to Nowhere rather than send the money to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.”

Santorum decided, after leaving Congress, to oppose earmarks, but he sure did love them while he was there. He voted against the Farm Bill in 2002, but he voted to extend milk subsidies to save the poor Pennsylvania farmer.

In the House, Santorum opposed NAFTA and offered legislation to impose steel tariffs. He wanted to tax imported honey and Chinese imports.

Add to this a fact that Erickson probably wouldn’t see as a negative. In the world of social conservatives, Santorum is the most extreme candidate on the stage when it comes to issues like same-sex marriage, birth control and abortion. He has spoken derisively of those Republicans who consider themselves fiscally conservative and socially moderate. In other words, he is anathema to at least 1/3 of the Republican Party, if not more. Nominating him would be electoral suicide. Erickson argues that a Santorum rise hurts Bachmann and Perry and helps Romney. Philip Klein agrees. And they’re right. Much like the rise of the other not-Romneys, a Rick Santorum rise would benefit Mitt Romney in the end. As much as Erickson as Klein would like to avoid Romney coming out on top after this is all over, though, it seems like this is the inevitable course it is taking. So, we’ll be hearing the name Rick Santorum a lot in coming days, I suspect, but don’t pretend it’s going to amount to anything.

Update: Nate Silver also casts doubt on the CNN Iowa poll:

What’s wrong with using a list of Republican voters for a Republican caucus poll? The answer is that it’s extremely easy for independent and Democratic voters to register or re-register as Republicans at the caucus site. Historically, a fair number of independent voters do this.

According to entrance polls in Iowa in 2008, for instance, about 15 percent of participants in the Republican caucus identified themselves as independents or Democrats on the way into the caucus site. Although the way that voters self-identify is not technically the same thing as which party they are officially registered with, this is probably a good proxy for what percentage of voters changed their registration to Republican when they signed in at the caucus location.

Most other pollsters are making some attempt to account for these voters. They are anticipating that the fraction of independents and Democrats will be at least as high as it was in 2008 if not a little higher, which would make sense since Republicans do not have a competitive Democratic caucus to compete with this year.

(…)

Most of Mr. Paul’s slim lead in Iowa comes because of these independent voters. In the Public Policy Polling survey, Mr. Paul trailed Mr. Romney 22-20 among voters who are already registered as Republicans. However, because Mr. Paul performed very well among independents (and Democrats), he held a 24-20 lead in the poll overall. The CNN poll is quite simply missing these voters and therefore will probably underestimate Mr. Paul’s support, perhaps by several percentage points.

Another reason it’s always good to look beyond the headlines in any story about a poll.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Bleev K says:

    “For I Am Santorum”, Lord of the Idiots.”

  2. Hey Norm says:

    A frothy mix doesn’t surge, as much as it oozes.

  3. Moosebreath says:

    Every Man-on-Dog has his day.

  4. DRS says:

    How can 2012 possibly live up to the past six months? Too unbelievable. Palin has got to be seriously kicking herself.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    @Hey Norm:
    Dammit, Norm, you beat me to it.

  6. Tlaloc says:

    Is there no end to the fickleness of the Iowan republican caucus goers? Bachman-Perry-Cain-Newt-Paul-Santorum…

  7. Peacewood says:

    “…to the top of the frothy mixture…”

    What you did there, I see it.

  8. sam says:

    Mr. Bogg is on the case:

    I (Don’t) See What You Did There