The great joys of the election cycle have returned: Interminable debates! Arcane caucus rules! Premature polls that set the narrative! With (only) seven and a half months to go until the Iowa caucuses, the primary's first Des Moines Register poll is out, and it confirms that Mitt Romney is indeed the front-runner in Iowa. He's up by one point over native daughter Michele Bachmann, who's polling expectedly well with "very conservative caucusgoers" and well-educated people between 45 and 64. The best news for Bachmann is that 18 percent of voters said that Bachmann is their second choice. With this much time to go, you'd rather people think of you as a runner-up than not at all.
• Herman Cain was the only Republican beside Romney and Bachmann to poll in double digits. He managed 10 percent of the poll, with help from the tea party.
• 46 percent of likely caucusgoers view Newt Gingrich favorably, 43 percent unfavorably.
• 59 percent of respondents said they didn't know John Huntsman well enough to have an opinion. Talk louder, John!
• People like Tim Pawlenty, but they don't really want to vote for him. He's the first choice of only 6 percent of those polled, and even though he's angling to be the Romney alternative, more Romney supporters said Bachmann would be their second choice, not Pawlenty.
So, what does this all mean? Nothing to Iowans, 69 percent of whom say they're still open to changing their minds. But to the media, polls like these are the gristle it can't help but snack on. Otherwise, how can it build a narrative? And without a narrative, what would an election be? Just a bunch of people voting according to their instinctual reactions to candidates? That's just undemocratic.
Iowa Poll: Romney, Bachmann lead Republican pack [Des Moines Register]