If Mitt Romney does indeed have the clearest path of any other candidate to the Republican party nomination – as some commentators have observed – how would he fare against President Barack Obama in a national contest?
There are some polls that give Mr. Obama a significant edge over Mr. Romney. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released in mid-December shows that the President would defeat the former Massachusetts governor in a nation-wide vote 48 per cent to 40 per cent.
Yet another poll shows Mr. Romney favoured by 45 per cent of eligible voters against 39 per cent who favour Mr. Obama.
But most polls show Mr. Obama's advantage is actually very slight and, taking into consideration the margin of error in polling, the two politicians are pretty even. For example, the Real Clear Politics poll – which is an average of nine polls in December on the question of Mr. Obama versus Mr. Romney – has the President ahead by a mere 1.6 percentage points.
Mr. Romney's win in Iowa will probably produce a favourable bump in any new polling.
Iowa Republicans who voted for Mr. Romney cited his electability on a national stage against Mr. Obama as a key motivation for voting for him.
And there's good reason for that: Polling shows Mr. Obama would do better in a national contest against any of the remaining Republican field.
As ever, swing states will be key in the 2012 presidential election. And in states such as Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, a mid-December poll had Mr. Romney edging Mr. Obama 48 per cent to 43 per cent – even if the national picture is still a Romney-Obama tie.
Interestingly, the same poll gave Newt Gingrich an edge over Mr. Obama in those swing states. Then again, mid-December was so long ago and Mr. Gingrich's numbers have dropped since then, resulting in a fourth-place finish in Iowa.