Reporting Tim Kephart
Legislative Session Coverage
MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – As the Republican Presidential candidates head into the home stretch before the January primary season starts in Iowa and closes at the end of the month in Florida; the race is tighter than ever based on a new CBS News poll.
According to the poll, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney are tied nationally with 20 percent of the popular vote.
But just as troubling for Romney and Gingrich is that 19 percent of those surveyed would prefer someone else to the candidates currently on the ticket.
Nationally, the poll found that just 21 percent of Republican primary voters have made up their mind whom to support in the election.
Coinciding with this was that 62 percent of those surveyed said they “like their candidate” but have “reservations.”
When it comes to which candidate is viewed as more conservative, voters chose Gingrich over Romney by a ten point margin.
But, the surprising candidate numbers in the poll belonged to a candidate who has flown under the radar for most of the primary season, Congressman Ron Paul.
While Paul only received 10 percent of the popular vote, his grass roots campaign has well established roots in Iowa and is gaining momentum day by day.
He’s also viewed nationally as the second-most conservative candidate behind Gingrich.
In fact, in a recent Public Policy Polling poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers, Gingrich’s once commanding lead has slipped to the point where he trails both Paul and Romney and is just ahead of tea party sweetheart, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
All of it has some political experts like former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie predicting that Paul could win the Iowa caucus.
After Iowa and New Hampshire vote, the next biggest fish in the sea could determine the future of the race when the candidates have to quickly pivot towards Florida.
Whichever candidate can mount the fastest campaign in Florida could be on the fast-track to the nomination in 2012.