A new poll out of Iowa suggests that the only GOP candidate to stand a chance of beating Obama one on one in 2012 is Congressman Ron Paul.
The NBC News/Marist Poll places Paul in third place with 17%, just 1% behind Mitt Romney, and well within the margin of error of second place.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich tops the poll with 26%.
Over the past few weeks Paul has consistently polled within the top three in Iowa and New Hampshire, and the latest numbers show he is closing in on the top spot.
Yet the most interesting facet of this latest survey is how the Congressman matches up in a hypothetical head to head with Obama.
The poll finds that the incumbent President betters all GOP competitors except for Ron Paul.
42% of registered voters in Iowa support Ron Paul and 42% back Obama, with 16 percent undecided.
In match ups with Romney and Gingrich, Obama comes out on top by 7 and 10 percentage points respectively, with 15 and 16% respectively undecided.
This highlights how Paul’s biggest hurdle is securing the nomination. There is no doubt that Obama would have a real fight on his hands to retain the presidency against Ron Paul.
Paul also leads Obama 42 to 35% among independent voters and attracts 15 percent of Iowa’s Democrats according to the survey. The Congressman also betters Obama by 14 percentage points among voters under 45 years of age.