Monday, January 2, 2012

Tight race in Iowa kicks off 2012 campaign

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Iowa Republicans cast the first votes of the 2012 White House campaign on Tuesday, with Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul in a high-stakes battle to win the party's kick-off nominating contest.

Voters will gather in schools, libraries and other public spots across the state to render judgment in the frequently shifting Republican race to pick a challenger to President Barack Obama in the November 6 election.

Santorum, a conservative former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, is the latest candidate to rise in polls in a race that has seen a handful of hopefuls roll through the top spot.

He is battling Romney, the national front-runner and narrow leader in Iowa polls, and libertarian Paul for a crucial win in Iowa that could provide momentum and a surge of new donations as the race moves to next week's contest New Hampshire.

"Get folks and bring them to the caucus with you," Santorum told supporters in Perry, Iowa, on Monday as each of the candidates made a final pitch for votes and tried to bolster their turnout.

Iowa polls showed many voters could still change their mind before Tuesday night, adding an element of unpredictability to an already fluid race.

"I'm undecided, and I'm still in the same boat as when I came," said Zander Morales, a hospital worker in Des Moines after he attended a rally on Monday for Paul, the U.S. congressman from Texas. "I'm not sure what I'm going to do." Learn More...

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