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Romney, Paul Lead Republican Presidential Hopefuls in Iowa Race

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (file photo)
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (file photo)

Republican presidential contenders are frantically reaching out to voters in Iowa ahead of the state's presidential caucuses. Candidates trailing behind in opinion polls Friday, such as Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former congressman 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, who was in Iowa to campaign with the candidate.

While Romney is seen as the overall front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination for the presidency, 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.

The U.S. presidential election campaign kicks off in the Midwestern state of Iowa on January 3, with seven Republican candidates trying to win enough voter support to represent their party in the November 6, 2012, presidential election. U.S. President Barack Obama has no challenger for the Democratic Party nomination, but still must go through the caucus and primary processes.

The Iowa caucuses are the first test on the electoral calendar. Some candidates suffer large enough defeats that they drop out of the race.  Many political analysts view the state as a cross section of the United States in terms of ideology and party preference.  However, a win in Iowa does not guarantee a candidate will receive his or her party’s nomination.

Iowa Quick Facts compared with the U.S. total:

- Population (2010): 3 million; U.S.: 308.5 million

- Residents under 18 years old (2010): 24 percent; U.S.: 24 percent

- Residents 65 years and over (2010): 15 percent; U.S.: 13 percent

- White residents (2010): 91 percent; U.S.: 72.5 percent

- Black residents  (2010): 3 percent; U.S.: 13 percent

- Asian residents  (2010): 2 percent; U.S. 5 percent

- Residents of Hispanic or Latino origin (2010): 5 percent; U.S.: 16 percent

- Residents of two or more races (2010) 2 percent; U.S.: 3 percent

- Foreign-born residents (2005-2009): 4 percent; U.S.: 12.5 percent

- Per capita income in past 12 months (2009): $25,000; U.S.: $27,000

- Residents below poverty level (2009): 12 percent; U.S.: 14 percent

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

An NBC/Marist survey shows Romney with 23 percent of the support among likely participants in the January 3 caucuses.  But Paul, a congressman from Texas, was just behind with 21 percent.

Romney held a morning event where he criticized U.S. President Barack Obama and promised change in Washington and a new direction for the economy and the country.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who at one time had been considered a possible candidate, appeared at the rally to support Romney.

“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," said Romney.

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, 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.

Former House speaker Gingrich, the latest one-time favorite to fade away, 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 disease and depression.

The only woman in the field of candidates, Michele Bachmann, a U.S. representative from Minnesota, 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.  She 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," said Bachmann. "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 on 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.

Where is Iowa located in the United States?

Iowa map

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