DES MOINES, Iowa
Mitt Romney received a boost Wednesday in the lead-up to the first nominating vote in the 2012 White House race as a new poll put him atop the pack of Republican hopefuls in Iowa.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who lost out in 2008 to John McCain, is hoping that a win in Iowa on January 3 coupled with his expected victory in New Hampshire the following week will all but seal the nomination.
The latest Iowa poll, released on Wednesday by CNN, Time and ORC International, showed Romney out in front with 25 percent of the vote, narrowly ahead of Ron Paul, who was backed by 22 percent of those surveyed.
Paul has a loyal following in Iowa but is considered a highly unlikely nominee due to his staunchly libertarian views that turn off the broader Republican electorate.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who had a clear lead in Iowa a few weeks ago, has lost ground dramatically after a barrage of negative advertising from Romney’s slick campaign machine.
The latest poll placed him fourth with 14 percent of the vote, trailing staunch conservative Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, who surged to 16 percent.
Whoever claims the Republican nomination earns the right to take on a vulnerable President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.