10/11: What the Numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire Mean

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

The NBC News/Marist Poll for January’s GOP New Hampshire Primary (it really won’t be in December, will it?) and the Iowa Caucus reveal some very interesting political tidbits.  Sure, we’re still several months away from these much awaited events but likely New Hampshire voters and likely Iowa caucus-goers are picking sides.

caricature of Lee MiringoffNo big surprise so far in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary.  New Hampshire neighbor Mitt Romney has a wide lead over the GOP field.  Iowa may eventually be the table setter for whom Romney has to take on in New Hampshire.  But, no clear challenger has emerged at present.

The only danger sign for Romney in New Hampshire is that only 38% of likely voters are firmly committed to a candidate.  45% who back Romney are firmly committed to him.  Better than the average, but not a lock.

Iowa, however, is a different ballgame, and represents more precarious terrain for Romney.  Romney is well-known but finds himself in a close battle among likely Iowa caucus-goers with Herman Cain.  Is Cain enjoying his 15 days of fame, or is this where the anybody-but-Romney caucus-goers coalesce?

Like New Hampshire, Hawkeye staters are still lukewarm to the field.  Only 41% of likely caucus attendees are firmly committed to their choice. But, 56% of Cain’s backers are solidly behind him compared to only 29% of Romney’s supporters.  That has to concern the Romney camp.  Also, of the four factors motivating likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers, the good news for Romney is he has the support of the plurality of those who say experience matters most.  The bad news for Romney is that  values, issues, and electability count more to likely Iowa caucus-goers than the candidate’s resume and, in each of these other factors, Romney has not established an advantage.

And, then there’s the Tea Party.  50% of likely Iowa caucus attendees identify with the Tea Party.  Cain leads Romney  by 31% to 15% with these voters.  But, among likely Iowa caucus-goers who strongly support the Tea Party, which amounts to one in five likely participants,  Cain’s advantage over Romney grows to 41% to 7%.  This also has to be a chief worry for team Romney.  It is something we will be watching closely in future NBC News/Marist Polls.