Some Iowa tea leaves

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The latest Iowa caucus poll is, as Mark Blumenthal points out, a little long in the tooth and, as the Iowa State pollsters point out, noteworthy for the number of Republicans who aren’t settled about who they’re going to caucus for. Nevertheless, it scatters some tea leaves that are worth scrutinizing.

The big dogs are Cain (24.5 percent), Paul (20.4 percent, and Romney (16 percent). Everyone else is in single digits, below “Can’t Decide” at 8.1 percent. Religiously, likely GOP caucus-goers are divided into Catholics (16 percent), Born Again Protestants (47.5 percent), Protestants who don’t say they’re Born Again (20.9 percent); and Seculars–those pesky “Nones” (11 percent). So who among the top three do these several groups disproportionately favor or not?

ISUPollreligion.jpgWhat jumps out is Paul’s overwhelming strength among the Seculars, even as he holds his own among the Born Agains, who we are entitled to treat as evangelicals. His problem lies with…let’s call them the Mainline Protestants, who are disproportionately more inclined to Romney (and to indecision). But if the GOP had as many Nones as the Democrats (twice as many), Paul would be out in front. It’s curious that Paul polls relatively weakly in the Tea Party (14 percent), which tends to be regarded as an evangelical-libertarian (secular?) alliance.

Maybe, in Iowa, Tea Partiers are mostly core Republicans, currently drawn disproportionately (31.4 percent) to Cain…but for how long? The same could be asked of Catholics, who are drawn to Cain in even greater numbers. Meanwhile, Romney is unsurprisingly weak with the Born Agains, but significantly weaker with the Seculars. That makes me want to see some national numbers on Secular antipathy to the prospect of a Mormon in the White House.

Turning to the bottom tier, Perry picks up a good chunk of his Born Again co-religionists, and Iowa Catholics seem to be aware that Gingrich is now one of them. Bachmann can’t sign up a Catholic to save her life, but is the solid second choice of the Seculars. The latter are disproportionately young and male, so maybe that accounts for it. Bachmann polls a lot better among Iowa men than women, so maybe that explains it.

Update: A new Rasmussen poll of likely Iowa Republican caucus goers has Gingrich rocketing to the front with 32 percent, followed by Romney (19 percent), Cain (13 percent), and Paul (10 percent). The only constant in the Iowa caucus world these days is that 15-20 percent of Republicans prefer Mitt Romney, never more or less. Otherwise, it’s all a whirl of volatility,

Saturday update: NYT’s Trip Gabriel reports that Paul has lined up Iowa’s home schoolers–the major caucus constituency that powered Mike Huckabee to victory four years ago.