- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 31, 2011

The most recent poll shows Mitt Romney continuing to lead in Iowa, trailed by Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, but the final days of polling indicate that Mr. Santorum’s recent campaign surge may have catapulted him to second place.

A Des Moines Register poll released Saturday night indicated little change in the candidates’ positions, showing Mr. Romney with 24 percent support, Ron Paul with 22 percent support and Mr. Santorum with 15 percent support.

But results collected from Tuesday through Friday may not fully describe the momentum Mr. Santorum has built over the past week, rising from the lower tier of candidates to a front-runner contender. The final two days of polling show him at second place with 21 percent, pushing Mr. Paul to 18 percent.

Newt Gingrich maintained a slight lead over Rick Perry, with 12 percent to Mr. Perry’s 11 percent. Michele Bachmann, who didn’t stump on Saturday and doesn’t have any more events scheduled according to the Register’s candidate tracker, came in at 7 percent.

Conducted by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, the four-day poll of 602 likely Republican caucus-goers has a 4 percentage point margin of error. On Thursday and Friday, 302 likely caucus-goers were interviewed, with a 5.6 percentage point margin of error.

The poll also indicated that Iowa voters remain highly persuadable, with 41 percent saying they may still change their minds before they gather in more than 1,700 precincts on Tuesday night.