Selzer & Company, the Des Moines Register’s standard polling firm, just surveyed the Iowa presidential field (Jan. 26-29; 402 Iowa GOP likely Caucus attenders; 401 Iowa Democratic likely Caucus attenders) and the results tell a surprising story. The survey was conducted just before 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney publicly announced his exit.
Selzer took into account, however, that the former Massachusetts governor and two-time national candidate was no certainty to run, hence asked ballot test questions with and without him as a projected participant. Even when included, Romney failed to lead and actually dropped behind two of his prospective opponents.
Irrespective of Romney’s presence, however, it was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker who placed first in both configurations. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was second, just a point behind, each time. For the Democrats, not surprisingly, former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton held a huge lead, topping 56 percent among those comprising the sampling cell.
Gov. Walker has been on an early roll and is clearly trying to break into the first tier of candidates early in the process. Forming a political action committee, Our American Revival PAC, the organization released a strong video last week on the heels of a critically acclaimed speech before Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA-4) Iowa Freedom Summit, a conservative gathering he co-sponsored with the Citizens United organization that invited a host of Republican presidential candidates to speak.
The Selzer GOP Iowa survey tells the story of what may conceivably happen to Republicans nationally. In both of their polling scenarios, we see a grouping of candidates within 14 points of each other, with Walker topping the field at only 15 percent support. From there, 14 other candidates in addition to Gov. Walker are tested for the first question (with Romney) and 13 others in the second (without Romney). The pair of totals barely changes. Romney’s 13 percent support seemed to be distributed almost evenly among the remaining candidates when he is removed from the list. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is the biggest beneficiary, but gains just three points in moving from fourth to third position.
Some of the bigger polling surprises continue to be retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (R), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), and Vice President Joe Biden (D). Despite not having run for any office before, and seemingly lacking a national constituency, Dr. Carson continues to hover around the 10 percent support level. This is true in the Selzer data and nationally, which is better than as many as 10 established political figures.
On the other hand, the two most disappointing potential candidates continue to be Bush and Biden. Though the national political media commonly describes Bush as one of the Republican front-runners, the polling generally doesn’t suggest such. And, it is particularly true for this Iowa survey. According to the Selzer & Company data, Bush commands only eight percent support with Romney in the field, and ascends to only 9 percent without him. He trails Walker, Paul, Huckabee, and even Carson in this late January Hawkeye State survey. However Biden can’t even break into double digits in most Democratic polls. Here, he posts a paltry nine percent score, 47 points behind Clinton and even seven back of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who says she is not running in 2016. His Iowa standing is typical of what is being found nationally, and makes him among the politically weakest vice presidents in the modern era.