Eight days away from the first true test of the Republican presidential hopefuls brings a new poll with a new leader.
Iowa prides itself on being the first state to deliver its verdict on those who would seek to lead, and it takes its role seriously.
But over the past few months, there has been a great deal of political promiscuity from the GOP voters in the Hawkeye State.
A number of would-be presidents have taken their turn at topping the opinion polls. There was the Minnesota Congresswoman, Michelle Bachman, who enjoyed the warmth of the summer sun and the adulation of the voters, but both soon disappeared.
Then Rick Perry shot to the top of the list, only for people to disappear when they heard him debate. For many , he will be the candidate who tried to remember a list of three government departments he would close, could only recall two and then uttered an ‘oops’ which was played over and over again.
Herman Cain – the former CEO of a pizza company grabbed a slice of the action but found the heat from allegations of marital infidelity too much and despite continuing to deny that he’d done anything wrong, decided to ‘suspend’ (for suspend, read end) his campaign.
Then a sterling debate performance propelled Newt Gingrich to the top of the polls. The former House speaker is a divisive character, but he fought the urge to fight his party colleagues and instead turned on President Obama.
It was a savvy piece of politics. But as the voters of the deeply conservative state were reminded of Gingrich’s past – two divorces, disciplinary action while he served in Congress, questions about his business dealings, the support began to leak away.
And now Texas congressman, Ron Paul, tops the polls. A libertarian, he believes in cutting government departments, pulling out of ‘all foreign wars’, stopping America acting as ‘the world’s policeman’ and abolishing income tax given the reduced scope of his planned administration.
His positions have been consistent – and the gynecologist who has delivered more than 4000 babies – has moved in the public’s consciousness from the wacky guy with the slightly odd ideas to the mainstream of American politics.
Yet, the chances of Ron Paul winning the Republican nomination remain slight. Iowa has thrown up quirky results in its primaries. Just four years ago, preacher Mike Huckerbee won the caucus with eventual nominee John McCain coming in tied for 3rd. Ron Paul may well come top but the most significant result will be where Mitt Romney lands.
He had been in the top three in almost every opinion poll, more often than not in the top two. He is seen as the man most likely to challenge Barack Obama, the man in the Republican party most likely to make it a close run thing.
And yet Republicans have appeared to want to date everyone else rather than get hitched to him. They like him, but they don’t love him.
The former Massachusetts governor has kept expectations in Iowa low. He campaigned there fiercely four years ago, and when he didn’t win, he was essentially knocked out of the race.
Now a finish anywhere in the top three will be seen as a good result, he will almost certainly take the New Hampshire primary one week later, meaning a win in South Carolina shortly after could result in the nomination being wrapped up by the end of March.
Any finish outside the top three will almost certainly mean the end of the road for anyone. Campaigns need money and supporters don’t back losers.
Yet even now Iowa has a large number of Republican supporters still waiting to make a commitment to the one they believe will make them happy.