Businessman Herman Cain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney lead the Republican presidential field in Iowa, according to a new Des Moines Register poll, historically the most definitive survey of the state's quadrennial caucus-goers.
The poll, conducted by the respected Des Moines, Iowa-based Selzer & Co., shows Cain with 23 percent of the vote, and Romney with 22 percent, well within the poll's 4.9 percent margin of error.
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is the only other candidate to earn double-digit support; the iconoclastic congressman is at 12 percent.
In fourth place is Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who ran neck-and-neck with Romney in the previous Des Moines Register poll, conducted in June. Bachmann is at 8 percent, just ahead of Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who each earned 7 percent.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania was at 5 percent, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who is concentrating his campaign in New Hampshire rather than in Iowa, was at just 1 percent.
Romney sits near the top of the field in the state despite paying less attention to Iowa than other early states. He visited Iowa last week for only the third time this year, but he told voters that he "will be here again and again."
Cain, the former chief executive of the Godfather's Pizza chain, has also spent little time in the state. The Register notes that he has returned to the Hawkeye State just once since the Ames straw poll in early August. He finished fifth in the straw poll. In the previous Register survey, Cain was in third place, at 10 percent.
Perry's poor showing is also notable, perhaps reflecting missteps on the campaign trail and his widely acknowledged poor debate performances. Iowa may be more important for Perry; polls in New Hampshire show Romney well ahead there. The Perry camp downplayed the significance of the Register's findings: "The only poll that matters is on Election Day," Perry spokesman Mark Miner said.
Perry this week became the first major candidate to run television advertisements in the state. Paul has also already run ads. Perry's first ad, a positive look at his job creation record in Texas, began running in multiple Iowa markets on Wednesday, premiering at the end of the range of dates for the interviews conducted for the newspaper's poll.
Another candidate counting on Iowa is Bachmann. The Minnesota congresswoman was born in the state and, as her standing in the national polls has dropped, she has focused more that more of her effort on the state in hopes a strong showing there can catapult her back into the top tier of contenders. "She will have an intense Iowa schedule in November and December," Bachmann's Iowa campaign manager, Eric Woolson, said in a statement issued after the Register announced its poll results. "To win the caucuses, candidates can’t just come to our state, run a bunch of slick television ads and expect to do well," Woolson added. "They have to meet Iowans face to face where they live."
The poll was conducted from Oct. 23 to 26, and surveyed 400 likely Republican caucus-goers. The newspaper is holding some results of the poll for their Sunday print editions.
Rebecca Kaplan and Sarah Huisenga contributed.