Through the Iowa Poll darkly

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The latest Des Moines Register Iowa Poll has it Gingrich 25, Paul 18, and Cain 16. Unfortunately, the paper doesn’t provide–and barely discusses–any cross tabs that would help us see where the evangelicals–some 50 percent of caucusgoers–are. The only dim light comes from from columnist Kathie Obradovich’s analysis of “caucus myths and realities”:

Myth — Social conservatives dominate: On social issues
like abortion and gay marriage, 46 percent of likely caucusgoers say
they are very conservative, and 18 percent say they are mostly
conservative. The favored candidates for this group are, in order:
Gingrich, Paul and Romney. Michele Bachmann, who is at 8 percent in the
poll, is considered the most socially conservative by 27 percent of
caucusgoers, a plurality.

If Obradovich means that the most socially conservative candidates are believed to prevail, that belief is based only on last time around, when Mike Huckabee ran away with the victory. In 2000, when George W. Bush won with 41 percent, Gary Bauer was the big social conservative and he ended up with nine percent. Call Michele Bachmann the Bauer of her time.

If we assume that evangelicals predominate among the “very conservative,” then they would appear to be distributed more or less proportionately across the field. That would confirm the non-survey-based reporting that they haven’t found, and perhaps will not coalesce around, a single candidate. Given the large proportion of GOP caucus-goers who are prepared to switch their vote (60 percent) or are undecided (11 percent), it could happen. Given the field, I’d say it’s unlikely. No Huckabee in 2012.

Update: Interestingly, NBC/Marist shows Obama kicking everybody’s butt in Iowa but Paul’s.