The GOP version of the Washington Post/ABC poll of Iowa is now out, and the storyline is all about Mike Huckabee.
Mike’s now within the margin of error of Romney in this poll (28%-24%). The other candidates are pretty much where they were back in July. More importantly, Huckabee’s base of support seems a lot firmer than Romney’s, as Gary Langer’s analysis for ABC points out:
[A]mong likely caucus-goers who are “very enthusiastic” about their choice, Huckabee leads Romney by 37-25 percent. Among those who say they’ve definitely made up their minds, 34 percent support Huckabee, 24 percent Romney. That makes for a better turnout profile for Huckabee.
This may matter a lot, because this and previous polls consistently show less enthusiasm among Republicans than Democrats in Iowa, which (along with strong indications that independents are likely to participate on the Democratic side) could mean a relatively low turnout.
One factor that doesn’t matter for the GOP is second-choice preferences. Unlike the Iowa Democratic Caucuses, the presidential segment of the Republican Caucuses is a straight straw poll, without all the thresholds and preference reassignments that make the Dem Caucuses so unpredictable. That’s too bad for Huckabee, since every other candidate would love to see him derail Romney in IA. You do have to wonder if they will avoid attacking Huckabee in Iowa between now and January 3, against the wishes of the conservative opinion-leaders who can’t stand him and are beginning to worry that an IA win could catapult him into serious contention down the road.