Iowa caucuses: Republican candidates make final pitch

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop on January 1, 2012 in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is leading opinion polls

Republican White House hopefuls are making their final pitches to voters as they enter a last day of campaigning ahead of Tuesday's Iowa caucuses.

Mitt Romney maintains a narrow lead over Ron Paul, his nearest rival, although opinion polls show many in the state remain undecided.

Meanwhile, former US senator and social conservative Rick Santorum surged into third place.

The vote is the first major test of the 2012 presidential election.

It marks the start of the six-month period during which each US state will hold primary elections or caucuses to pick a Republican candidate, who will be officially nominated at the party convention in August.

'Wide open'

An opinion poll on Sunday by the Des Moines Register newspaper suggests Mr Romney remains the most popular candidate in Iowa, with 25% support. Mr Paul was at 22%, while Mr Santorum scored 15% but rising.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich came in fourth with 12%, while Texas Governor Rick Perry got 11% and Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann had 7% support.

However, 41% of those polled said they could still change their minds.

"It's a wide open race," Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, a Republican, told CNN, adding that many were still on the search for their ideal candidates.

"I'm pretty confident we'll have a good night. I don't know who's going to win," Mr Romney told supporters at a restaurant in the town of Atlantic, says the Reuters news agency.

Mr Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts and a moderate Republican, had barely campaigned in Iowa until the past week.

He spent millions on his unsuccessful nomination bid in 2008.

Support for Texas Congressman Ron Paul has slipped a little after he was challenged about his non-interventionist foreign policy views.

"I may come in first, I may come in second. I doubt I'll come in third or fourth," he told CNN.

Mr Paul opposes intervention in Iran over the issue of nuclear weapons and wants to end US aid to Israel and other allies.

Standing firm, he told CNN: "I would say that we just need to be more cautious. I think if we overreact and participate in bombing Iran, we're looking for a lot more trouble."

Mr Santorum, meanwhile, has said he would bomb nuclear facilities in Iran if they did not allow international arms inspections.

Correspondents say that while a good performance in Iowa does not guarantee an easy path to nomination, a successful result can give a clear boost to candidates as they start out. Equally, a clear defeat could spell the end for a contender.

The eventual Republican candidate will challenge President Barack Obama for the White House in November 2012.

Many voters are concerned by the pace of economic recovery from the recession that started during the last months of the presidency of George W Bush and ended in 2009.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    As a Brit and therefore with somewhat different attitudes to those of you from the US I can still see the attraction of Ron Paul. He does seem to be a very honest man, but so did Obama, and he doesn't seem to be under the spell of the Tea Party or the GOP.
    I have one huge worry he is a confirmed acolyte of Ayn Rand who is, in my opinion, the 'mystic Meg' of libertarians and was a rank hypocrite

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Mitt Romney is a centrist, sensible and safer pair of hands than the libertarian Ron Paul or the scary Michelle Bachmann, even his pro-life policy seems slightly saner than,say, Rick Perry's.

    He is the ultimate flip-flopper though, but then he has to appease a 'rabid' right wing.

    My worry is the extreme right will coalesce around an Anti-Mitt candidate as people drop out, probably Perry again

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Depressing as it is to hear the views of many candidates, Mitt Romney appears sensible, centerist and a safe pair of hands. I appreciate that this view will not go down well with the'foaming at the mouth' wing of the Republican party, but i fear that the candidates they support will kill off any hope of economic recovery with their barely literate economic ideas and further rupture US society

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Anyone can be President in the USA, as they tell you... as long as you have millions of dollars of rich folks backing you. It's also ironic that the land of the free refuses to give trial by jury to those in Guantanamo, and Mitt Romney actually wants to double the amount of people held there. A good Mormon, huh? I'm sure Jesus would do the same...


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