Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whom some pundits had written off as the GOP's nominee, may find a second coming in Iowa, if new poll data holds up.
As Mitt Romney's campaign has suffered a startling decline in recent weeks, only to see Newt Gingrich eclipse the former Massachusetts governor's front-runner status, the battle for the Iowa caucuses set for Jan. 3 has become a wide-open race.
New survey data prepared for the Perry campaign and shared by a source close within the campaign shows that the Texas governor may be poised to do much better in next month’s Iowa caucuses than earlier polls predicted.
The survey by the Austin, Texas-based Baselice & Associates firm shows Perry firmly in third place with 13 percent — trailing Gingrich’s 29 percent and Romney's 19 percent. The poll was conducted Dec. 3-4.
But the internal polling data shows that Perry’s “strongly positive” rating has jumped 6 points since the firm’s previous Iowa survey, just three weeks ago.
And, significantly, Perry’s positive rating among likely Iowa caucus-goers is at a commanding 67 percent. And a stellar 71 percent view him positively after having seen one of his commercials.
Other numbers that suggest a potential rise: Perry stands at 78 percent positive among self-identified tea party members, according to the survey.
But he also enjoys strong support among Iowa’s undecided voters, at 71 percent.
One of the poll’s most interesting findings: 67 percent of respondents overall — and a whopping 75 percent who are leaning toward former House Speaker Gingrich — state that they still may change their minds. That finding suggests that, with just a few weeks to go before the caucuses, the Iowa electorate remains very fluid.
The Baselice findings may indicate that Perry’s vigorous advertising in Iowa is helping his campaign break through the clutter.
Late last week, the Perry campaign announced it would spend $80,000 on new, more faith-based ads in Iowa to appeal to the state’s evangelicals.
In the new ad, Perry says: “Some liberals say that faith is a sign of weakness. Well, they’re wrong. I think we all need God’s help. I’m Rick Perry, I’m not ashamed to talk about my faith, and I approve this message.”
Another ad focuses on U.S. energy independence from foreign oil, and a third offers some self-deprecating humor over his iffy debate performances.
Perry's forces seem to have another ingredient important for electoral victory: money.
One pro-Perry Super PAC, Make Us Great Again, has spent $943,000 advertising on behalf of the Texas governor. It has devoted special attention to Iowa and South Carolina.
Perry also has invested heavily in an Iowa ground campaign, something the Gingrich campaign is playing catch-up with.
Another rival to Perry's claim on Iowa's rich evangelical vote is Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. But her campaign has suffered a sharp declined in the polls as campaign fundraising has slowed.
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