Iowa Caucus Up for Grabs


From the Associated Press:

With a week to go, the state of the race in Iowa generally mirrors the race from coast to coast.

Polls show Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, having lost ground and Texas Rep. Ron Paul having risen, with both still in contention with formerMassachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at the head of the pack. All the others competing in Iowa–Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum–are trailing.

But, in a sign that the contest is anyone’s to win, most polls have shown most Republican caucusgoers undecided and willing to change their minds before the contest in a state where the vote typically breaks late in the campaign year.

There are a slew of reasons why the Iowa campaign is a much more muted affair than in 2008–marked by the iconic clash of Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who together employed almost 300 staff in Iowa and held blockbuster rallies. This year, there is no contested Democratic primary, given that President Barack Obama has no serious challenger. Only Republicans are competing, and those candidates are approaching the state differently, both visiting and hiring less. Also, like it did everywhere else, the race here started slowly–months later than usual–as a slew of GOP politicians weighed candidacies, only to abort White House bids.

Long-time Republican activists here, who often joke that they like to meet the candidates several times before deciding, have barely seen the candidates once, much less at all, and no campaign has more than 20 paid staff in the state.

All that’s partly a consequence of how technology has changed both the political and media environments in recent years. Campaigns now can more precisely–and cheaply–target their pitches to voters from afar, sending personalized e-mails and YouTube video messages from the candidates to voters directly, and more campaign outreach is being handled by volunteers and through central national websites. And voters, themselves, now can go online and find information about the candidates without having to wait for the White House hopeful to show up in the town square.

“Caucuses don’t exist in a vacuum. They’re not the same every time,” saidJohn Stineman, a West Des Moines Republican activist who ran Steve Forbes 2000 Iowa campaign. “But everything else has changed. Why wouldn’t the caucuses change?”

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