NBC News-Marist Poll on the eve of Iowa caucuses

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Romney 23 Paul 21 Santorum 15 Perry 14 Gingrich 13 Bachmann 6 * * * * If this holds, Perry will remain in the presidential race for sure, and may even get a boost. This is a good result for him. After being shunted aside by Iowa’s evangelical power brokers in favor of Rick Santorum, Perry is within a point of Santorum and has nosed ahead of Gingrich, a top tier candidate (not in Iowa, but in South Carolina and Florida). If Santorum’s surge has come and gone, Perry could conceivably finish third in this race, and if that happens, it will be the biggest story of the night (unless Paul overtakes Romney to win, which is very possible). Romney’s decision to go for broke in Iowa may come back to haunt him. Finishing second to Paul is not a show of strength. Santorum is no threat to Perry in the long run, because he can’t raise the money to stay in the game. This is his first, and last, moment of glory. If Perry comes out of Iowa with a third place finish, he will be a top-tier candidate, even though the rivals he finishes ahead of are not an impressive lot. That’s the good news. The bad news is, as I posted yesterday, he is nowhere (mid-to-low single digits) in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida, and the compression of these primaries into a small window of time–less than a month–makes it hard for him to catch up.

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