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Romney enjoys slight lead over Paul in latest Iowa poll

Mitt Romney leads ahead of Tuesday's Iowa caucus, according to a new poll. But Ron Paul isn't lagging far behind.


Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul are locked in a battle for the top slot in Iowa heading into the state's Tuesday caucuses. 

Twenty-four percent of likely Iowa caucus-goers said they would support Romney and 22 percent indicated backing for Paul, according to the Iowa Poll, conducted by Selzer & Co. for the Des Moines Register and released on Saturday evening. 

Fifteen percent of likely caucus-goers said they would support former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, while 12 percent preferred former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 11 percent for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and 7 percent for Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. 

The poll was conducted from Dec. 27-30, making it the most recent reflection of where things stand in the very fluid battle to win the first nominating contest of the cycle on Jan. 3. 

Underscoring that point, the Des Moines Register reported that momentum had seemed to shift toward Santorum in the last two days of the poll. During that time, 24 percent of respondents expressed a preference for Romney — good enough for first — but Santorum places second, at 21 percent, leapfrogging Paul, in third, at 18 percent.

The poll results have a 4 percent margin of error for the full results, and a 5.6 percent margin of error for the subsample of the last two days.

The results, though, mirror a series of polls released this week had showed a narrow lead for Romney in the race to win the Iowa caucuses. 

The NBC News-Marist poll, conducted Dec. 27-28 and released Friday, showed Romney at 23 percent, followed by Paul at 21 percent, Santorum at 15 percent, Perry at 14 percent, Gingrich at 13 percent and Bachmann at six percent. 

That followed a TIME/CNN poll that was released on Wednesday, which also showed Romney and Paul atop the GOP pack, at 25 percent and 22 percent (respectively) among Republican likely caucus-goers. 

Just three days before the Iowa caucuses officially kick off the Republican presidential race, most of the candidates find no time to rest on this holiday weekend. NBC's Peter Alexander reports.

In the intervening days, the candidates — affected by a serious of developments — have campaigned furiously throughout Iowa in a bid to secure votes before Iowans caucus on Tuesday. 

Most notable were an emotional moment for Gingrich and a high-profile defection by Bachmann's campaign chairman in Iowa to the Paul campaign. 

The flash of emotion for the former House speaker came Friday when, speaking in Des Moines, Gingrich got teary-eyed upon recalling his late mother. 

The Wednesday night defection by state Sen. Kent Sorenson, the former Bachmann official who joined the Paul campaign, meanwhile sparked a nasty war of words between the two campaigns and contributed to the resignation Thursday by Bachmann's political director. Bachmann accused Sorenson of leaving because the Paul campaign had offered him money; the Paul campaign has denied this. 

The other campaigns have been largely unplagued by last-minute drama, and have crisscrossed the Hawkeye State in a last-minute push for support. 

Romney, who had participated only selectively in the state this fall, has made an all-out push this week, has stuck to a largely upbeat message and regular references to patriotic hymns. His surrogates spread out across the state this week, and the campaign has blanketed the airwaves with advertisements. 

Paul has also stumped throughout Iowa, though he's been absent at some points. He didn't resume campaigning in Iowa until Wednesday — well after his competitors had returned to the trail — and he's spending New Year's Eve in Texas, with his family.

Santorum has also been trying to cement a last-minute surge in the polls, but has encountered organizational difficulties associated with his campaign's rapid ascent. He's been joined by throngs of media on the campaign trail, too.

Perry has worked to shore up social conservative support during his tour of the state, while Bachmann, had worked to fight off perceptions that her campaign was all but dead.