Poll: Newt Gingrich Continues to Lead GOP Field in Iowa

Poll shows Gingrich still leads GOP race in Iowa, race tightening

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich continues to top GOP rivals in a new Iowa poll released today, but his margin may be shrinking.

The University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll shows Gingrich leading with 29.8 percent support from likely Republican caucus-goers, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 20.3 percent, Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 10.7. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann garnered 8.5 percent report and Texas Gov. Rick Perry had 8.2 percent. [Ron Paul gaining credibility by day]

The poll, conducted between Nov. 30 and Dec. 7, surveyed 982 registered voters with a 3.5 percent margin of error. Of those, nearly 300 were likely Republican caucus-goers.

Frederick Boehmke, a political science professor with the university and faculty adviser of the Hawkeye Poll, said the data shows Gingrich's popularity may have peaked.

"He also faces the challenge of turning out his supporters on caucus night, which will be critical since the gap between him and Romney is narrower among 'very likely' GOP caucusers and 'strong' Republicans," Boehmke said in a release.

[Tea Party leaders: Rand Paul is wrong on Newt Gingrich]

Businessman Herman Cain's announcement to suspend his presidential campaign occurred about halfway through the polling. The top beneficiary of his decision was Paul, whose support increased from 7.1 percent to 13 percent after the announcement, according to the release.

"These results suggest a very fluid race," Boehmke said. "No one candidate has put together a strong coalition of very satisfied voters. Until they do, support will likely continue to shift between candidates all the way through caucus night."

[Four reasons why Iowa shouldn't go first]

Caroline Tolbert, also a political science professor at the University of Iowa, highlighted the importance of a ground game in Iowa.

"Candidate support among strong Republicans and very likely caucus-goers is our best predictor of success in the caucuses, given expected low turnout," she said in a statement. "While Gingrich is polling well, his minimal staff and grassroots organization in Iowa suggests he may be unable to turnout supporters on Jan. 3 to the same degree as the others."

Candidates who have spent extensive time campaigning in Iowa, such as former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Bachmann, Paul and Perry may ultimately perform higher than they are polling, she said.

The Iowa caucus is scheduled for Jan. 3.

 Email: rmetzler@usnews.com

Twitter: @rebekahmetzler