If Iowa turns out like this:
(1) Ron Paul
(4) Everybody else
My intuition is that everybody else will be essentially ruled out, Gingrich will be mostly out of the running (but will not drop out), Paul will be decisively defeated in the later Republican primaries, and Romney wins out. (Apparently I'm not the only one with this point of view; see page 2 of this article from Politico: "If Mitt finishes first or second, does it really matter?"). The Politico thinks Romney is in "striking distance" of winning outright, as well.
If instead it is:
(4) Everybody else
That is a more difficult case. Or, really, any case where Gingrich comes out ahead of Romney (say, Gingrich 1, Romney 2; the Politico article mentioned earlier also noted that estimates of Paul strength may be too high). But right now, Fox News seems to be suggesting that they believe it will be Paul, Romney, and then Gingrich. CNN suggests the same thing, although the polling numbers they have must be within the margins of error: Paul 21%, Romney 20%, Gingrich 19%. The poll reported in The Hill has Paul 24%, Romney 20%, and Gingrich at 13%.
In any case, if Romney comes out ahead of Gingrich, he really will be happy to tell him his "humorous anecdote face to face." It is also possible that Gingrich will be forced to admit that even those who go out under the slogan "victory or death" sometimes get death rather than victory.
Lastly, the Iowa vote counting has been moved to an "undisclosed location" in the state, which means we've finally figured out where Dick Cheney was for all those years: Iowa.
Apparently, The Daily Stag Hunt is just ahead of The Hill.
The CNN survey (documentation link: here).
The latest release of survey data from CNN includes the results of Dec. 21-27 telephone polling and Nov. 29-Dec.6 telephone polling. There were 452 respondents (sampling error: 4.5 perc. points) and it is not clear if these are the same respondents (i.e., panel) or if it is just of similar size to the one from Nov 29 - Dec. 6. It has the following:
Romney: 25% (up from 20%)
Paul: 22% (up from 17%)
Santorum: 16% (up from 5%)
Gingrich: 14% (fell off a cliff from 33%)
Perry: 11% (up from 9%)
Bachmann: 9% (up from 7%)
Huntsman: 1% (no change from 1%)
Otherwise: 2% (none/no opinion had 7% previously)
The early Dec. poll numbers reflect the "2nd choice" of Cain supporters.
These results may be unstable; only 54% said that they would "definitely support" that candidate while 43% said they might change their mind. [Unfortunately not broken down by candidate... come on, guys...]
There are also some measures of "positives" and "negatives" ("would consider supporting" versus "would not consider supporting") --- Paul has the highest "negative" at 41% and, surprisingly, Perry has the highest positive at 64%. The gap for Perry is huge: Only 11% say they currently support him, so he is acceptable to 53% of the respondents who also primarily support someone else. [Is that the fabled "social conservative" vote? i.e., those people like Bachmann or Santorum?]
There are a lot of cross-tabs provided in the CNN report (definitely worth a look --- there are more about Iowa at the bottom).
Anyway, I'd be selling Gingrich stock like "The Great Wheat Fire-Sale of 2008" (inside joke).
Drudge makes a good point: if Romney's at 75% with the people who actually have money on the line... I guess I'm not the only one seeing the primaries go that way. Link HERE. It is interesting that (currently; 1 AM Los Angeles time) that Huntsman is ahead of a great number of the candidates that poll better than he does in Iowa (and other places).
Still, it is well worth a caution: the caucuses can be unpredictable. The surge of recent news articles - "hey guys, it's Romney!" - will really build expectations. If he doesn't quite meet them? Who knows? It's one of those things where if only we, the Daily Stag Hunt, expect him to do well --- that's no big deal. Nobody reads this website anyway. If all the newspapers say it --- he'd better meet those expectations.
The current main story in the news is that the candidates have resorted to beating each other up. A typical article: The LA Times.