GOP Presidential Candidates' Campaigns In High Gear In Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- The White House their goal, Republican presidential hopefuls raced across Iowa on Monday in a final, full day of frenzied appeals for support in precinct caucuses that open the 2012 campaign. "It is the race you make it," an upset-minded Rick Santorum told voters soon to pick a winner.

In the race's final hours, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney predicted victory and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich all but forecast his own defeat.

From Sioux City in the western part of the state to Davenport in the east, the six presidential hopefuls hustled through 23 fast-paced campaign events combined. That and the $13 million or more already spent on television commercials was evidence enough of the outsized importance Iowa holds in the race to pick a Republican opponent for President Barack Obama next fall.

Romney had one eye on his GOP rivals and another on Obama as he argued he is in the best position of all to capture the White House. The president has been "a great divider, the great complainer, the great excuse giver, the great blamer," said the former Massachusetts governor, who is making his second try for the nomination and has been at or near the top of the Iowa polls since the campaign began.

Later, before a noisy crowd in Marion, he predicted his own victory in a state that humbled him four years ago. "We're going to win this thing with all of our passion and strength," he said.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul flew into the state accompanied by his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and urged supporters to "send a message tomorrow night that echoes not just around Iowa but ... around the world." Many in the audience of about 300 chanted "end the Fed," a reference to the Texan's pledge to abolish the nation's central bank as a first step toward repairing the economy.

Most polls in recent days have put Romney and Paul atop the field in Iowa, with Santorum in third and gaining ground. More than a third of all potential caucus-goers say they could yet change their minds.

"Do not settle for less than what America needs to transform this country. Moderate candidates who try to appeal to moderates end up losing," Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, said in a slap at Romney.

After absorbing a pounding in television commercials from Romney's deep-pocketed allies, Gingrich said he was looking ahead to next week's primary in New Hampshire, and then to one in South Carolina on Jan. 21

"I don't think I'm going to win, I think when you look at the numbers that volume of negativity has done its damage," he said of the Iowa caucuses.

Romney is viewed as the overwhelming favorite in New Hampshire, although Santorum, Paul and Gingrich have all said they intend to campaign there.

South Carolina figures to be more wide-open, the first contest in the South, and in a deeply Republican state.

If others were thinking about conceding Iowa, they did not show it.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry took swipes at Romney, Santorum and Paul in an appearance in Sioux City. "If you have my back tomorrow at the caucuses, I'll have your back for the next four years in Washington, D.C," he said.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann unveiled the first television ad in months. It hailed her as Iowa-born and the only "consistent conservative fighter" in the race and concluded, "She'll never back down."

The commercial was the last in a race in which the candidates' own ads were sometimes overshadowed by the more negative ones run by super PACs, organizations established and funded by their allies.

Perry and a super PAC supporting him spent the most, $5.5 million, according to one tally of the ad spending.

But it was the combination of Romney ($1.3 million) and his super PAC ($2.7 million) that appeared to have the most noticeable impact on the race. That was particularly so in the final few weeks, when Gingrich surged to the front of the polls.

The former speaker soon found himself under relentless attack in ads by the Romney super PAC. At the same time, the former Massachusetts governor's campaign took the high road, airing positive ads designed to show him in a favorable light.

Short on funds, Gingrich was unable to respond in kind, declaring instead he would run only a positive campaign.

It wasn't much of a contest, and before long, he faded, while Paul and then Santorum rose.

In fact, Gingrich's emergence was only one in a series of twists that seemed to produce a new front-runner every few weeks.

Bachmann earned that distinction when she won a straw poll last summer in Ames, but she was bumped off stride when Perry entered the race. His boomlet lasted until his first few debate performances were judged lacking, and then it became Herman Cain's turn. The former business executive suspended his campaign after being accused of personal indiscretions, and Gingrich began gaining ground, then Paul.

Throughout it all, Romney remained steady, advantaged by his well-funded campaign, the super PAC that supports him and the missteps of his rivals.

Yet to the end, the polls suggested the former Massachusetts governor was having trouble persuading Iowa Republicans that he was conservative enough to warrant their support.

Somehow, even an intense post-Christmas push by the candidates through Iowa's cities, small towns and smaller towns left Iowa Republicans uncertain about which contender to back.

"I'm really still undecided," said Bill Brauer, of Polk City, as he listened to Santorum speak on the campaign's final day.

"I'm going to make up my mind tonight," he said.

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  • by Bud on Jan 3, 2012 at 09:51 AM
    Old Sock, you're going to have a whole lot of crow to eat come November. Why not stop eating now so you'll have plenty of room. You'd better get rid of all your guns too, no doubt when the Democrats take back both houses it might just be more than you can bear.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jan 3, 2012 at 01:31 PM in reply to Bud
      He (osoc)is used to eating crow, he did it twice when he voted for Bush, oh, I forgot he also supported Palin,Bachmann,Trump,Perry,Huckabee,Gingrich, anybody but Obama.
      • reply
        by Obama Snake Oil Co on Jan 4, 2012 at 05:30 AM in reply to
        You doesn't matter what you post....pound sand...The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 22% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -20 (see trends).
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Jan 3, 2012 at 05:59 AM
    Funny, some posters here seem to think Obama has a chance in 2012...really? He is gone no matter your whine, your cry and your anger in your post. You had your chance and you blew it with the worst president since Jimmy Carter. Now go sit down...its not about you.
    • reply
      by Flip on Jan 3, 2012 at 09:53 AM in reply to Obama Snake Oil Co
      With this crop of idiots? I bet even you can't decide which one of these cretins would stand a chance.
  • by just facts on Jan 3, 2012 at 03:09 AM
    Just face it, there is no one in the GOP worthy of being the POTUS. Tuck your tails and try again in 2016.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jan 3, 2012 at 08:24 AM in reply to just facts
      Funny, there is no Democrat worthy of it either, it has really shown the past 3 years.
  • by HAHA Location: Greenville on Jan 2, 2012 at 08:56 PM
    I'm thinking Santorum!
    • reply
      by Troll? on Jan 3, 2012 at 01:04 AM in reply to HAHA
      Santorum is another big goverment liberal in conservative clothing! Santorum solution is to spend spend spend, along with bombing Iran.
  • by Frank Sinatra on Jan 2, 2012 at 08:06 PM
    Ron Paul will not get the GOP nomination. He knows if he runs 3rd party it will guarantee the relection of the Campaigner in Chief. Mr Paul has a few good ideas but mostly.......hes a nut!
    • reply
      by Haha on Jan 2, 2012 at 10:43 PM in reply to Frank Sinatra
      He's the only sane one left, why is he a nut because the TV tell you he is?
      • reply
        by Paula on Jan 3, 2012 at 03:07 AM in reply to Haha
        No, he is a NUT based on the comments he have made. Did you ever take the time to listen to him?
        • reply
          by Haha on Jan 3, 2012 at 01:36 PM in reply to Paula
          What comments would that be?
  • by 40some on Jan 2, 2012 at 07:56 PM
    Me too, Ron Paul. I'm sick of what the republican party has become, but my only other choice is to become a democrat and that'll never happen.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jan 3, 2012 at 03:06 AM in reply to 40some
      Ummm more interested in Party vs Country? Typical Repug.
  • by Mark Location: enc on Jan 2, 2012 at 07:41 PM
    Ron Paul 2012!!!!!
  • by Anthony on Jan 2, 2012 at 07:06 PM
    Ron Paul or Bust!! Obama is a Liar! The rest of the GOP are warmongering chicken-hawks!
  • by blackbeard Location: portsmouth island on Jan 2, 2012 at 07:05 PM
    What a ship of fools. Sad to see the party of Lincoln and TR run aground by the shallow minded evangelicals and college dropout, blowhard pigs limbaugh and beck. To think, we could actually have a contender who believes that humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth together 2000 years ago! What as sad bunch and sadder are those uneducated sheep who support them.
    • reply
      by Obama Snake Oil Co on Jan 3, 2012 at 05:52 AM in reply to blackbeard
      Capt, you ship is sinking....on the bottom by 2012..
  • by Chris on Jan 2, 2012 at 06:45 PM
    Ron Paul 2012 !!!
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