Des Moines Register Poll: Rick Santorum Surging, Mitt Romney on Top, and Newt Gingrich Falling

Dec 31, 2011 10:13pm

ABC News’ Shushannah Walshe and Michael Falcone report:

OTTUMWA, Iowa– Three days before the Iowa caucuses a New Year’s Eve Des Moines Register poll shows Rick Santorum gaining momentum in Iowa, but still running behind first place finisher Mitt Romney and second-place contender Ron Paul.

Here are Saturday Night’s results:

Romney 24

Paul 22

Santorum 15

Gingrich 12

Perry 11

Bachmann 7

But, there’s an important twist that is not reflected in the instant look at the numbers. In the final two days of polling, Santorum moved ahead to second place with 21 behind Romney with 24 while Paul falls to third place with 18.

The other GOP contenders remain the same.

Santorum had finished up his fifth and final event of the day here in Ottumwa where he reacted to the results just minutes after The Register released the poll.

“We are the one who has the best chance to pick up and finish maybe even head of Mitt Romney. We still have a ways to go, but we are the one on the move and that’s pretty exciting,” Santorum told reporters who informed him of the results.

“I think we are the candidate that conservatives are starting to rally around and that I think is pretty clear from the poll that we are in the campaign with momentum and conservatives want to stop Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum is the train that is right at his heels,” Santorum said. “And to the extent that they want to send a conservative message out of Iowa I think it’s pretty clear the campaign they need to be supporting.”

Saturday night’s results closely mirror those of a poll taken just a few days ago. The NBC News/Marist poll released Friday reflects almost identical polling.

However, the latest numbers show significant shifts in the race since the newspaper’s last survey on Dec. 3.

In that poll, Gingrich was surging with 25 percent support, ahead of Ron Paul with 18 percent and Mitt Romney was third with 16 percent.

Rick Santorum was tied for last place in the poll with Rick Perry only coming in with six percent support. Technically, Jon Huntsman was last with two percent, but he’s not competing here.

The jump from last place to second represents undeniable momentum at just the right moment for the Santorum campaign.

On the other hand, Gingrich’s fall to fourth place couldn’t come at a worse time for the former House Speaker. The campaign, which has been bombarded by a steady stream of negative attacks on the airwaves, dismissed the results.

“If this is the Supebowl, then we just saw the pre-game show. But, everyone knows the real action happens after kickoff,” Gingrich’s spokesperson R.C. Hammond said in a statement.

When asked specifically about the move from third to second in the final two day period Santorum said it reflects that “people are realizing that I actually can win this.”

Santorum has consistently said on the trail that making voters realize he is electable was his goal and once that happened Iowans would rally around him.

As he left the Bridgeview Center and got into the pick-up truck he rides in from stop to stop he had a message for Iowans and contrasted himself with the former Massachusetts governor.

“There’s one candidate that is moving in and closing in and it’s time to rally around and make that happen and make sure that a conservative comes out strongly in Iowa,” Santorum said. “Mitt Romney has a lot of money and I have a lot of energy.”

ABC’s Elicia Dover contributed to this report.

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