Final Des Moines Register Iowa Poll shows Romney, Paul neck-and-neck

CNN Wire Service

Mitt Romney and Ron Paul remain neck-and-neck in Iowa among likely Republican caucus-goers, according to a poll released Saturday by the state’s largest newspaper.

The Des Moines Register Iowa Poll showed Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, with 24 percent and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas with 22 percent. The No. 3 spot went to former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania with 15 percent, followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 12 percent, Texas Gov. Rick Perry with 11 percent and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota with 7 percent.

The poll was conducted Tuesday through Friday but results from just Thursday and Friday considered separately showed Santorum in second place with 21 percent and Paul third with 18 percent while Romney remained steady at 24 percent.

The Register poll is the last major one expected before Tuesday’s caucuses, when the first votes of the 2012 race will be cast.

A senior Romney strategist said that the “mood is positive” and that Team Romney is “a confident campaign, but not an arrogant one,” adding that “the campaign is taking nothing for granted.”

The latest poll follows an NBC/Marist poll and a CNN/Time/ORC International poll released earlier in the week that showed a close contest for the No. 1 spot between Romney and Paul.

The final Iowa Poll also shows 41 percent of likely caucus goers could still be persuaded to change their minds.

The Des Moines Register poll released shortly before the state caucuses in 2008 closely mirrored the eventual election results. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee topped the December poll with 32 percent and went on to with the contest with 34 percent of the vote. Romney’s poll figures also closely mirrored the election results. He garnered 26 percent in the poll compared to 25 percent in the January contest.

The Des Moines Register Iowa Poll was conduced by Selzer & Co., which surveyed 602 likely caucus goers between Dec. 27 and Dec. 30 with a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The sampling error for the final two days of polling was plus or minus 5.6 percentage points.

— CNN’s Paul Steinhauser and Gabriella Schwarz contributed to this report.