Sen. Chuck Grassley said Wednesday he didn’t believe there is a Republican front-runner in the 2016 Iowa caucuses — and he’s right.

“Unsure” was the overwhelming leader in TheRUN2016/cygnal flash poll taken last week of nine top GOP candidates for the presidential nomination in the Hawkeye State.  Thirty-six percent of potential caucus-goers chose the uncommitted option — more than triple the percentage of nominal Iowa leader Sen. Marco Rubio, who garnered just over 11 percent of support.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who is emerging as Rubio’s top rival in the early stages of the intraparty fight, was nipping at his heels with 10.5 percent.

All others registered under the 10 percent mark, showing a wide open fight for the caucus state two and a half years before Iowans will gather to choose a standard-bearer.

Paul performed best among women with 14 percent while Rubio grabbed the most males with 13.4 percent.  Former Gov. Jeb Bush was first among those with a high propensity to participate in the caucus.

The full results of the 1,705 Iowa GOPers surveyed by cygnal, an Alabama-based Republican-aligned consulting firm are below: (Actual number of votes in parentheses)

Question 3: As of today, who do you see yourself most likely supporting in the 2016 Republican Caucus?

Marco Rubio 11% (195)

Rand Paul 10.5% (179)

Paul Ryan 9% (159)

Jeb Bush 8.7% (148)

Chris Christie 7.7% (130)

Rick Santorum 6.7% (114)

Ted Cruz 6.1% (103)

Scott Walker 2.1% (36)

Bobby Jindal 1.3% (23)

Unsure 36% (618)

Read the entire TheRUN2016/cygnal poll HERE. 

While Rubio’s lead is razor-thin and within the margin of error, his support is an encouraging sign for a senator who has endured a turbulent few months due to his lead role in attempting to broker a bipartisan deal on immigration reform, which many conservatives oppose.  Yet only 5.5 percent of Republicans cited immigration as their most pressing issue in TheRUN2016/cygnal survey.

“Rubio is still new.  While he grabbed the national spotlight some people are still forming their opinion of the rising star,” said cygnal managing partner Brent Buchanan, who oversaw the poll with data strategist Cory Brown.  ”He should be satisfied with his current standing among a field of so many good candidates. Considering immigration is waning as an issue, I don’t see any damage to him at this point.”

Paul’s vote total underlined the measurable progress he’s made during the first half of the year asserting himself as a distinguished conservative voice and viable contender.

Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will address a gathering of pastors and GOP activists in Iowa over the next two days.

TheRUN2016/cygnal poll also showed the distance Govs. Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal have to go in order to establish a name for themselves amid a field of heavyweight contenders.

Other key findings: When it comes to the direction of the country, Iowa Republicans are dour. Eighty-nine percent of respondents believe the nation is on the wrong track. Only 9.5 percent feel the country is moving in the right direction.  Not surprisingly, government spending took top spot among most important issues at 32 percent, followed by the economy at 22 percent.  Healthcare was third at 13 percent.

The horserace results differ from the latest Iowa survey conducted by the Democratic-aligned Public Policy Polling, taken a week prior.  PPP pegged Paul with 18 percent and Rubio dropping to 10 percent.  But PPP sampled  just 250 GOP primary voters; TheRUN2016/cygnal’s survey sample was more than six times that.

While PPP’s margin of error was 6.2 percent; TheRUN2016/cygnal’s came in at 2.37 percent.  An overwhelming majority — 71 percent — of TheRUN2016/cygnal respondents self-identified as likely or definite caucus goers in 2016.  The survey was in the field July 10-12.

“It’s hard to drill down and see serious numbers with such a small sample size,” said Buchanan, when asked to explain the difference with PPP’s result.  ”I am confident of our poll because the plurality of Republican voters are keeping their powder dry right now.”

The Flash polling methodology used by cygnal on behalf of TheRUN2016.com, was completed using rigorous IVR data collection methodology and then supplemented with live cell connects to produce a large, reflective sample.

TheRUN2016/cygnal Iowa poll of the Democratic field will be published on this site in the coming days.