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Republican candidates for the US presidential election made their last appeals to voters in the state of Iowa, ahead of Tuesday’s first poll in the contest, known as the Iowa caucuses.

The vote will kick off a state-by-state contest to decide who will challenge President Obama in the election next November.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is said to be the favourite at present along with Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

But apparently showing a surge in popularity is former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who was surrounded by TV cameras and appeared confident and optimistic as he chatted to supporters.

Political veteran Newt Gingrich, now struggling in the polls after a promising start, became emotional talking about his mother in relation to medical research: “My whole emphasis on brain science comes indirectly — see how it makes me emotional — from dealing with, you know, the real problems of real people in my family.”

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