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The poll of the day — an ABC News/The Washington Post survey of Iowa caucus voters — shows Newt Gingrich with a 15-point lead over Mitt Romney, who is now in a virtual tie with Ron Paul for second place. According to those caucusgoers, who tend to lean "very" conservative, Gingrich best represents "core Republican values" and has the best chance to beat Obama.

Tellingly, Gingrich also lacks (for now) a "dealbreaker" like the kind that could sink Romney or Paul. About 45 percent of those polled say Romney's health care plan in Massachusetts is reason enough to vote against him, and 46 percent say the same about Paul and his staunch opposition to military interventions overseas. But they love Gingrich's political experience, no matter how opportunistic it might have been, and don't really care that he's been married three times and might be "soft" on immigration.

In other words, Gingrich's positives are still quite positive, while his negatives have yet to take hold with voters. They see Newt as a stand-up guy, who will also stand up to Obama, while the rest of the candidates remain wishy-washy and inconsistent. It doesn't matter that Newt may have changed his mind more than anyone that last 15 years. 
Given the vast resources at Romney's disposal, Gingrich's 33-percent to 18-percent lead is not insurmountable, but Romney also faces another big hurdle: the loyalty gap. More than a quarter of caucus voters say there's a "good chance" they'll change their mind before January 3, but a huge chuck of those people are the ones currently backing Romney. He just doesn't inspire the loyalty that Gingrich does, though neither of them can compete with Paul on that score. And how could they, with brilliant ads like this one:

The question now is whether Romney will even attempt a comeback or conceded the state to focus on the big picture. He doesn't need to win Iowa to win the nomination, but he stopping Newtmentum has to become a big priority soon.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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