Libertarian-leaning Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R) is outperforming the odd-on Republican frontrunner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), in the key GOP primary state of Iowa, according to a new poll out on Sunday.
It’s the third poll so far to confirm Paul’s emergence as a leading candidate for the Republican nomination to the presidency. A second poll, also released this weekend, found Paul trailing Romney by 1 percent — well within the margin of error.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) earned 25 percent support among likely Republican caucus voters polled by The Des Moines Register — a massive upswing from the seven percent backing he earned in the Iowa newspaper’s last poll in October.
Paul moved into second place with 18 percent support, ahead of Romney, who earned just 16 percent, according to the newspaper.
Far from being the “gadfly” Republicans attempted to label him as early on in the campaigns, Paul has now, definitively, emerged as a frontrunner for the nomination. Appearing on CNN Sunday afternoon, Paul attributed his rising fortunes to a consistent message emphasizing fiscal responsibility and civil liberties.
“So, I think we continue to do what we’re doing,” he said during the interview. “We’ve had the flavors of the month up and down so far in this campaign. I’d like to think of myself as the flavor of the decade.”
In the Register poll, Herman Cain — who on Saturday suspended his presidential bid amid allegations of sexual harassment and adultery — and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann each earned eight percent support. Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum each garnered six percent support, and former U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman took two percent.
An NBC News poll (PDF) of Iowans similarly found Gingrich leading at 26 percent, with Paul and Romney trailing closely behind at 17 percent and 18 percent, respectively.
A Bloomberg News poll last month found Paul in a similar position with Iowa voters, trailing former frontrunner Herman Cain by just 1 percent, with Romney and Gingrich close behind.
It’s just the latest in a string of small victories for Paul, who won a Calif. straw poll in Sept., an Ohio straw poll in Oct. and an Illinois straw poll in Nov. He also dominated a CBS News viewer survey after the last Republican debate, topping all the other candidates by tens of thousands of votes, even though he was only allowed 89 seconds to speak during the entire broadcast.
The Iowa caucuses kick off next year’s election season on Jan. 3.