“I think there’s a general belief that this thing could move fast and late,” says Bob vander Plaats, a leading Iowa social conservative and political insider, discussing the Republican presidential caucus race. “Dramatically fast and dramatically late.”
But the fact is, with the caucuses three and a half weeks away, late is now. So the question is whether Newt Gingrich’s surge in Iowa is the fast and late movement everyone has been predicting — or whether some other candidate could emerge before January 3.
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If the race works anything like it did the last time around, Gingrich will be the winner. Back in 2007, Mitt Romney led in every poll from June to November. Mike Huckabee began to move up in October and took the lead for the first time in a Rasmussen survey released November 27. A Des Moines Register poll shortly afterward confirmed Huckabee’s lead, and, with the exception of a few stray polls, the former Baptist minister was ahead of the pack from the first of December 2007 until the caucuses on January 3, 2008. Huckabee won with 34 percent of the vote to Romney’s 25 percent.
This time around, Gingrich first took the lead in Iowa in a Rasmussen survey on November 15. He’s led every one of the seven polls released since then, and now leads Romney by 12 points in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. No one else is gaining significant ground against Gingrich.