Ron Paul is a much better general election candidate against Obama than either Gingrich or Romney in Iowa, and in New Hampshire Paul comes fairly close to Romney against Obama. That’s one surprising takeaway from a just-released Marist poll for NBC News of Iowa and New Hampshire voters (pdf here). Marist is a high-quality polling outlet, so their numbers deserve to be taken seriously. Here are the stats:
Gingrich 37%, Obama 47%
Romney 39%, Obama 46%
Paul 42%, Obama 42%
Gingrich 39%, Obama 49%
Romney 46%, Obama 43%
Paul 42%, Obama 44%
In Iowa, a Democratic-leaning state at the presidential level, only Paul seems to have any chance against Obama. Indeed, his numbers in favor are larger than those for Gingrich or Romney (the latter difference might not quite be statistically significant), indicating that his relative strength against the incumbent is not simply due to lack of name recognition.
In New Hampshire, the well-known, local Romney does better than Paul, but Paul gets within the margin of error against Obama.
Marist also surveyed likely caucus and primary voters in the two states. The New Hampshire line looks like this: Romney 39, Gingrich 23, Paul 16, Huntsman 9, Perry 3, Bachmann 3, Cain 2, Santorum 1. Cain’s exit will have little impact on this race, and my guess is that Huntsman and Paul are to some degree competing for the same pool of voters. Iowa looks like this: Gingrich 26, Romney 18, Paul 17, Perry 9, Cain 9, Bachmann 5, Santorum 5, Huntsman 2. Cain’s dropping out is unlikely to benefit Romney, so Paul looks set for second place in the next poll here.
Are pundits underestimating the extent to which some voters want to send a message about no more wars, bailouts, or assaults on constitutional liberties, even if it means voting for a “radical” candidate?