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Can Mitt Romney win when the Iowa caucuses convene tonight?
That question is on the mind of every political pundit right now. Because if Romney wins in Iowa, the race for the Republican presidential nomination could be a very short contest given that the former Massachusetts governor is a big favorite to win the New Hampshire primaries next week.
"Whether Romney can secure the nomination in January depends a lot on how he finishes tonight in Iowa," Aaron Blake blogged Tuesday for the Washington Post . "A win makes the likelihood of the race ending by the end of this month considerably more likely."
One circumstance that bodes well for Romney's hopes is that, through the use of advanced statistical polling analysis, New York Times elections guru Nate Silver anointed Romney as the candidate most likely to win in Iowa. Silver attaches a 42-percent likelihood for a Romney victory in Iowa, with Ron Paul and Rick Santorum receiving 34- and 20-percent probabilities, respectively.
"Our forecast model, which combines the Public Policy Polling survey with other recent polls of the state, also shows an effective three-way tie, although it has Mr. Romney ahead by the slimmest of margins," Silver wrote Monday. "The model projects Mr. Romney to receive (21.8) percent of the vote, followed by Mr. Paul at (21) percent and Mr. Santorum — whose numbers have been on the rise — at 19.3 percent." (Figures for Romney and Paul have been slightly adjusted to reflect Silver's latest projections.)
Additionally, Team Romney believes it stands to benefit from the relatively pleasant weather forecast for Iowa tonight: although temperatures will dip below freezing, roads are clear and no precipitation or storms are in the forecast.
"Aides to Mitt Romney have said in several reports that higher voter turnout would benefit their candidate," the Weather Channel reported Tuesday morning. "Other experts have said that Ron Paul would benefit most from poor weather because supporters of the Texas congressman are so committed they'll turn out regardless of weather conditions."
Finally, even though Romney's support among Republicans in Iowa has only briefly eclipsed 25 percent, that may be enough to notch a win because the current crop of candidates appears poised to set the record for the lowest winning total in the history of the Iowa Republican caucuses.
"It now looks as though as little as 20 percent of the vote might be enough for a candidate to win Iowa, while 25 percent might give him clearer chances," Silver wrote Friday. "The lowest winning percentage in previous caucuses belongs to Bob Dole, who won with 26 percent of the vote in the Republican caucuses in 1996. There's a good chance that this year's winner will poll less than that and break the record."
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