However, these figures are far from "set in stone":
The race at this early stage could take many twists and turns before the Iowa finish line is reached in January.
Twelve percent of those polled are undecided or declare themselves uncommitted. Among those stating a preference, 87 percent say they could still be persuaded to support another candidate as their first choice.
Why is he surging? Some ideas below:
Romney’s front-runner status in the new Des Moines Register poll could stem in part from solid performances in the two national debates, his work in building a network of supporters in Iowa, his fundraising prowess and money spent on TV ads, said J. Ann Selzer, The Register’s pollster.
“His success raising money seems to have aroused caucusgoers’ interest, prompting them to take a serious look at the candidate,” Selzer said. “He’s helped by the top two qualifications Republican caucusgoers are looking for in a candidate — experience as a governor and as CEO.”
The poll shows Romney is regarded favorably by 74 percent of likely caucus participants and unfavorably by just 13 percent, with the rest unsure how they feel about him.
He does better in the poll among older Iowans, who tend to be more faithful in attending the caucuses, than he does among younger ones. Roughly one-third of those 55 or older make him their first choice, compared with support from about one-fifth of adults younger than 35.
Some opinions from participants:
Republican caucusgoers place a premium on a candidate who has experience as a governor, with 60 percent saying they are more likely to support a person with that experience on their resume.
“Just being elected out east, where the hard core of the Democrats are, speaks pretty highly of” Romney, said poll participant Edward Green, 57, of Davenport.
“He’s got a good family and his children are on the right track,” said Green, a minister who does missions work for Assemblies of God International.
Green wonders, however, whether Romney — a Mormon — can win the Republican nomination because of his religion. “People will poke and prod at his religion — a lot like they did with Kennedy in the ’60s.” John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, was the first Catholic elected president.
Most likely Republican caucus participants — 71 percent — say it makes no difference in their choice of a candidate if that person would be elected the first Mormon president. However, 22 percent say that would make their support for the candidate less likely.
Six percent say electing the first Mormon president would make them more apt to support that person and 1 percent are unsure.
Iowa is a nice microcosm proving that those who get to know Romney . . . like Romney. His campaign is picking up steam and will be hard to derail. Full steam ahead to the Ames Straw Poll!!!