In less than three weeks, Republican voters in the Midwestern state of Iowa will attend caucus meetings to express their preference in the race for the Republican Party's presidential nomination. Iowa will be the first test in what could be a lengthy battle for the party nomination that at the moment appears to be between two top contenders, former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
The latest batch of public opinion surveys gives Newt Gingrich a lead over Mitt Romney by margins ranging from 6 to 17 points.
Gingrich is also running well in some of the early-voting states like Iowa, South Carolina and Florida that play a major role in the presidential nominating process.
Romney and some of the other Republican presidential contenders have stepped up their attacks on Gingrich in hopes of slowing his momentum.
Gingrich says he wants to remain positive. "When I was down at the very bottom of the polls, I stayed positive. Now that I'm the frontrunner, I'm staying positive," said Gingrich.
Romney is attacking Gingrich, saying the former speaker has a history of being an unreliable conservative and that he will not hesitate to point out how he differs with Gingrich.
"This is, after all, politics. There is no whining in politics," said Romney.
Gingrich is also trying to fend off criticism of his personal life, especially previous admissions that he was not faithful in his two prior marriages.
Texas Governor Rick Perry noted that in a recent debate.
"I've always kind of been of the opinion that if you cheat on your wife, you'll cheat on your business partner," said Perry.
Gingrich has admitted personal failings and sought forgiveness, something that could appeal to evangelical Christian voters who are a major force in the Republican Party.
"And I think people have to render judgment. In my case, I've said up-front openly that I have made mistakes at times. I've had to go to God for forgiveness. I've had to seek reconciliation," said Gingrich.
But even some Republicans say that Gingrich had a divisive and difficult tenure as Speaker of the House in the 1990s.
New York Republican Representative Peter King is among those who question whether Gingrich has the right temperament to be president.
"I saw the damage he did to the Republican Party and to the Congress. And I think I owe it to my constituents and to my country not to allow that to happen again," said King.
Gingrich is the latest candidate to gain favor in the polls with conservative Republicans, says Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown.
"There are a large number of Republican voters, many who describe themselves as Tea Party supporters who are conservative Republicans, and they have been shopping for a candidate," said Brown.
Brown adds that conservatives seem to be looking for an alternative to Romney, the man long considered the favorite to win the Republican Party nomination.
"For some reason, this group of conservative voters is not at this stage embracing Mr. Romney. Perhaps they don't think he is sufficiently conservative. Whatever the reason, Mr. Romney does have a problem with this group," added Brown.
The nominating process begins January 3 in Iowa with its presidential caucuses. That begins a series of primaries and caucus votes that will run into June. The process will conclude with the formal selection of a Republican nominee at the party's national convention in Tampa, Florida, in early September.