The race for the White House officially kicks off in Iowa on Tuesday as Republican supporters there take part in a vote to pick their party’s candidate for November’s presidential election. The Iowa caucus appears to be a close run thing: former Massachusetts Governor and Republican front runner Mitt Romney is locked in a fight with Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.
While Romney may be a favourite of the Republican establishment, 76-year-old libertarian-leaning Paul poses a major threat to Romney’s latest bid, having spent years building up a grass-roots network in Iowa.
However both have recently been firing their shots at the relatively inexperienced but rapidly rising Christian conservative Rick Santorum, who is harbouring growing hopes of a last minute shock victory in the state.
That leaves three other candidates, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, playing catch-up.
US political analyst Steffen Schmidt thinks Iowa will sift the wheat from the chaff: “You know, I think that several of them after Iowa will have exhausted themselves, used up their resources, will not have done very well and will decide this is not really for me, I don’t have any other place to go.”
Despite having faded in recent opinion polls, Bachmann, Perry and Gingrich could pick up votes from Iowa’s undecided Republican electorate. That could mean taking the state-by-state battle on to New Hampshire and South Carolina later this month.