Republican Presidential Hopefuls in Final Push Before Iowa Race

Posted December 31st, 2011 at 12:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Republican presidential contenders are in their final push for voter support in Iowa ahead of the state's presidential caucuses. Candidates trailing in opinion polls, such as Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, were working to erode the lead of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Romney's bid received a boost Friday from the popular governor of the state of New Jersey, Chris Christie, who was in Iowa to campaign for him.

“What a guy, that guy is. Isn't he amazing? Gosh, we're so lucky to have him in our party and leading a great state like New Jersey, fighting the battles to take back America.”

While Romney is seen as the overall front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination, rival Ron Paul has risen in the polls just days before the Iowa caucuses, the country's first nominating contest for the 2012 presidential election.

An NBC/Marist survey shows Romney with 23 percent of support among likely participants in the January 3 caucuses and Texas representative Paul close behind with 21 percent.

Paul spoke to voters in Iowa Friday, saying if he won the presidency, he would cut spending by a trillion dollars and pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan.

Romney held a morning event where he criticized U.S. President Barack Obama for his year-end Hawaii vacation while many people are out of work. He promised change in Washington and a new direction for the economy and the country.

Former senator Rick Santorum, who has seen a recent jump in the polls, says he remains confident the caucuses, regarded as an important indicator of nationwide prospects, will turn in his favor. The NBC/Marist poll puts him in third place, with 15 percent support.

While the winner of the Iowa caucus may not go on to win a party nomination, or the presidency, a poor showing in the state may force some candidates to drop out of the race.

University of Iowa political science professor Timothy Hagle tells VOA that Romney's staying power trumps that of other candidates.

“Quite frankly, Romney is prepared for the long haul, unlike some of the other candidates, and so if these other candidates, whether its Gingrich or Santorum or any of the others, if they don't get a sufficient bounce coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire, they won't get the fundraising bump that they need to be able to go longer into the Super Tuesday states.”

Gingrich has seen his support tumble in Iowa, although he continues to campaign hard.

He teared up at an event when talking about his late mother, remembering her as a happy person who loved life, but who also suffered late in her life from bipolar disorder and depression.

“My whole emphasis on brain science comes in directly from dealing, um… see how it got me emotional, from dealing with, you know, the real problems of real people in my family.”

Meanwhile, the only woman in the field of candidates, Michele Bachmann, greeted supporters at an eatery in the town of Early. Bachmann, who has seen single-digit support in Iowa, pledged tax reform and a repeal of President Obama's health care reform. Bachmann predicted she would do well in the caucuses.

“And something else that I've highlighted in the course of this presidential race is my commitment, both as a federal tax attorney and as someone who's created and runs a successful business is the abolition of the tax code. This is leadership that I intend to bring to this issue in abolishing the tax code.”

Jon Huntsman, who was President Obama's ambassador to China, is focusing his campaign on New Hampshire, the second state scheduled to vote on a nominee. That northeastern state holds its primary January 10.

In the latest survey in that state, Romney holds a strong lead, supported by 44 percent of likely primary voters, followed again by Paul.