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As Caucus Nears, Republican Candidates Woo Iowa Voters

In the days leading up to Iowa's Republican Party caucus January 3, presidential candidates are crossing the Midwestern US state in a final effort to secure support. As they make their case to voters, the sluggish economy and job security remain the dominant concerns for Iowans.

The latest U.S. political poll shows the rankings have shifted again among Republican presidential hopefuls, with less than a week to go before the Iowa caucuses.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is back on top in the latest figures, Wednesday, with Ron Paul in second place.

In Iowa, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and U.S Congressman Ron Paul of Texas are just a few points apart. And in a surprise surge, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum has almost tripled his support, climbing to third place state.

In New Hampshire, the second state scheduled to vote on a nominee, Romney holds a strong lead, supported by 44 percent of likely primary voters, followed again by Paul.

In Davenport, Iowa, along the Mississippi River, Dan Pekios is trying to keep the doors open in the bookstore his grandfather, a Greek immigrant, founded in 1939.

“I don’t make much money here. As the prices of gas and food and everything goes up and wages don’t, people don’t absolutely have to have books. You can’t eat them,” he said.

A few blocks from Pekios' store, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney began the final leg of his Iowa campaign, trying to appeal to undecided voters like Pekios.

“Mom and Pop businesses, like the one I just spoke with out in the hall, they feel they are struggling under the weight of a government onslaught," Romney said.

But Pekios remains undecided about this year's candidates.

“I’ll wait until the last minute, and hear it all. I’d like to see how the whole thing plays out. It’s been very interesting so far. I want to see what the economy does,” Pekios said.

Ahead of Tuesday's caucus votes, the Republican candidates are crisscrossing Iowa, including Ron Paul and former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich.

They are wooing undecided voters like Des Moines homebuilder Mark Reetz. He attended a local campaign event for Texas Governor Rick Perry to find out which candidate can help make his job easier.

“As a homebuilder, we are deadly overregulated. Especially with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). The hoops that we have to jump through, it’s a process, and it’s very costly to us,” Reetz said.

Davenport health care worker Mary Klueder supports Mitt Romney. But she harbors some disappointment in this year's campaign. “I haven’t seen a whole lot of candidates this time around. This is the first time I’ve seen Governor Romney, I know he was here one other time. But four years ago he had an office here, in this part of the state. There’s not any of the groundwork for a lot of the candidates,” Klueder said.

Klueder says the absence of that groundwork may be one reason there is no clear front-runner this close to the Iowa caucus, when voters get their first say in the process of selecting a president.

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    Kane Farabaugh

    Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.