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Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stops to autograph photographs during a campaign event at Elly's Tea and Coffee December 28, 2011 in Muscatine, Iowa. Romney began a three-day bus tour of Iowa with less than a week to go before the state's all-important caucuses.
Who’s the frontrunner in the final week before the Iowa caucus? Depends on what day it is. Previously riding high in public opinion polls, Newt Gingrich has taken a dive to third place, with dark horse Ron Paul suddenly leading the pack and Mitt Romney holding at second.
Between them, all seven of the candidates and their supporters have spent more than $10 million on television and radio advertising to woo Iowa voters. And every truck stop, pizza joint and church basement in the state seems to have enjoyed a visit from one or more of the hopefuls as they burn up highway miles to get their message out.
Despite battling bad press over his involvement with extremist newsletters in the 90’s, Ron Paul has
drawn the biggest crowds. His anti-war, anti-drug law views have attracted younger voters and moderates, while alienating more conservative Republicans; nevertheless a win in Iowa is not out of the question.
Meanwhile, Gingrich’s day in the sun may be winding down, as his campaign seemingly implodes due to negative ads, disorganization, lack of funds, personal baggage and general unpopularity among his GOP peers. Rick Perry, who has languished near the bottom of the polls, has been using his considerable funds to saturate the airwaves and could finish strong. There’s no doubt that an Iowa win is an important campaign milestone and could even be a game-changer. But at this point, it’s anybody’s game.
Which way will the wind blow at next Tuesday’s caucus? Whose barnstorming will bring the biggest payoff? Which candidates could get wished into the cornfield?
James Oliphant, National Political Correspondent for the Los Angeles Times
Jonathan Ahl, News Director, Iowa Public Radio
Jonathan Wilcox, Republican Strategist and former speech writer for Governor Pete Wilson
Jon Fleischman, Republican strategist; founder and publisher of FlashReport.org