The United States elects its president in just a little more than 11 months. But before the general election, the Republican party must first select a nominee, who will run against current President Barack Obama. The now-ongoing Republican race has some interesting twists, it includes a candidate who failed to get on the ballot in the state where he lives and a libertarian who is under fire for allegedly writing discriminatory remarks.
Republican candidates are all smiles when they come to the Midwest. The Iowa caucuses, their first presidential test, is Tuesday, January 3.
The Iowa Republican party lists nine caucus candidates, but political analyst Matthew Dowd narrows it to three. "I think this race right now, unless somebody changes the dynamic in Iowa, is a race between Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, all of whom have tremendous [drawbacks in their background], and all of whom a majority of Republicans have worries about," he said.
Gingrich has worries of his own, he did not submit the required number of qualified signatures to get on the primary ballot in Virginia. That's the state where he lives. Virginia, the nation's 12th largest state, is seen as an important "swing state" where neither party dominates, making it crucial in the general election in November.
Democratic political analyst James Carville said, "He's not on the ballot in Virginia, which in a close race, could actually mean something. Secondly, it's probably indicative of something else that they weren't prepared for this, they weren't able to do this."
But the Gingrich campaign has been quick to focus on Congressman Ron Paul's recent issues. Paul published newsletters in the 1980s and 90s that contained racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay material. "These things are really nasty," said Gingrich. "And he didn't know about it? Wasn't aware about it and he's sufficiently ready to be president?"
Paul disavows the newsletters, saying he did not write them. But a YouTube video from 1995 shows a different stance. "It's called the Ron Paul survival report and I put that out on a monthly basis," he said in the video.
Still, Congressman Paul has passionate supporters who like his no-frills authenticity. Important in Iowa where slightly more than 100,000 people will vote.
The third top-tier candidate is former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who has campaigned less in Iowa than some others. "The experience of balancing budgets is desperately needed in Washington and I will take it there," he said.
Romney touts his economic expertise in this new TV ad. But some staunch Republicans complain he's not conservative enough on other issues.
The good news for all three candidates is that Iowans have not chosen a clear favorite yet. The bad news is they have less than a week to become that favorite.