Ron Paul takes lead in latest Iowa poll

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, laughs as he sits down with Elizabeth Rose Chamberlain, 3, of Epping, N.H., while campaigning at the Early Bird Cafe in Plaistow, N.H., Dec. 20, 2011. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul of Texas
Charles Krupa

Texas Rep. Ron Paul is now atop the field in Iowa of Republicans looking to unseat President Obama next year.

Paul has the support of 27.5 percent of likely voters for the Jan. 3 caucuses, which kick of the 2012 race for the Republican nomination for president in less than two weeks, according to a poll conducted by Iowa State University/Gazette/KCRG.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich finished a close second, with 25.3 percent, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who took 17.5 percent.

Paul's support could be stronger than other candidates who have led in Iowa in the months since the August straw poll, which Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann won.

Dave Peterson, an associate professor of political science at Iowa State, said Paul's support is likely under represented by polling.

"His supporters are younger and more likely to reply on a cell phone, so he's probably going to perform better than his polling suggests. His supporters also are dedicated and will likely turn out on caucus night and not change their minds," Peterson said.

The poll showed that "the race still remains remarkably fluid" for the other candidates, Iowa State said.

About 37.8 percent of respondents said they were still deciding who to back, while another 34.1 percent said their support would best be characterized as "leaning toward" their candidate. Just 28.1 percent were firmly backing their choice.

Iowa State University/Gazette/KCRG asked 740 registered Republicans and 200 registered independents about their current preferences in telephone interviews conducted between December 8-18. The results stem from the 333 of those polled who said they would probably attend the caucuses. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus five percentage points.

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