Iowa Republicans will gather today at fire stations, schools, libraries and community centers across the state to vote their choice for the GOP nomination to oppose President Barack Obama this fall. Yet even at this last minute, the outcome remains highly unpredictable.
In this first presidential voting of 2012, polls suggest that three candidates are likely to finish in the top tier: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. But legions of undecided voters make the final finish hard to handicap.
The Iowa caucus traditionally winnows the field. Six major Republican hopefuls are competing today, and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are struggling for support.
Since the modern Iowa GOP caucus began in 1976, only three eventual nominees have won: Gerald Ford in 1976, Bob Dole in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2000. But the caucuses helped shape the field, and John McCain in 2008 has been the only nominee to finish worse than third, and he was fourth by a slim margin after making only a minimal effort here.
So, with all that in mind, we bring you the 2012 Iowa caucuses by the numbers:
• 20/19/18: The percentages for the top three GOP contenders (Paul, Romney and Santorum) in an Iowa survey released Sunday by Public Policy Polling.
• 49: The percentage of likely caucus-goers who said last week in a Des Moines Register poll that their mind was still not made up.
• 1: The percentage of the American electorate that lives in Iowa, site of the nation’s earliest presidential contest.
• 5: The percentage of Iowa voters who participated in the 2008 GOP caucuses.
• 24: The percentage of New Hampshire voters who participated in that state’s 2008 GOP primary (New Hampshire is the next contest after Iowa).
• 0.06: The percentage of American voters who will be caucusing on Tuesday in Iowa if turnout is the same as it was in 2008.
• 0.015: The percentage of American voters who will be voting Tuesday for the winner of the Iowa caucuses, if recent opinion polls are accurate.
• 3: The number of different leaders in the three Des Moines Register polls from October, November and December (Herman Cain, Gingrich and Romney).
• 7: Number of lead changes in Gallup’s national polling of the GOP presidential race since last May, with Romney, Cain, Perry and Gingrich all on top at one time or another. According to Gallup, this phase of the nominating contest is “the most volatile for the GOP since the advent of polling.”
• 60: Percentage of GOP caucus-goers in Iowa in 2008 who said they were a born-again or evangelical Christian.
• 11: Percentage of those 65 and older who support Paul, according to Public Policy Polling’s most recent Iowa survey.
• 31: Percentage of those under 30 who support Paul in the same survey.
• 76: Age of Paul.
• 25: Romney’s percentage of the vote in the Iowa caucuses four years ago.
• 24: Romney’s percentage in last week’s Des Moines Register Iowa poll.
• 45: Percentage of all campaign ads on broadcast TV in Iowa last month that were attacks against Gingrich, according to ad-tracking firm Kantar Media CMAG.
• 6: Percentage of all campaign ads on broadcast TV in Iowa last month that were in support of Newt Gingrich.
• 52: Percentage drop in Gingrich’s standing from November to December in the Des Moines Register poll (from 25 percent to 12 percent).
• 150: Percentage gain in Santorum’s standing from November to December in the Des Moines Register poll (from 6 percent to 15 percent).
• 25: Number of Iowa visits by Romney since last June, according to the Washington Post.
• 262: Number of Iowa visits by Santorum since last June, according to the Washington Post.
• 33: Number of campaign events Santorum has held in Iowa at Pizza Ranch restaurants, according to Santorum.
• 30: Percentage of likely caucus-goers who have seen one or more candidates in person during the Iowa campaign, according to Public Policy Polling.