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Iowa Republicans launch US political year

Iowa Republicans launch US political year
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The Midwestern US state of Iowa this Tuesday hosts the country’s first major electoral event of the year.

Voters here will kick off the process to nominate which Republican Party candidate will run against Barack Obama for the presidency of the United States. Some of the candidates have largely ignored Iowa as they jostle for the top polling spot.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, however, has been doing the best in surveys, with Ron Paul and Rick Santorum next. Romney was the favourite in 2008 as well.

The Mormon former Missionary and then businessman laid America’s economic problems squarely at Obama’s door.

Romney said: “The median income in America has dropped 10 percent in the last four years. How in the world can the president call that anything but failure? He’s failed to get the economy going, he’s failed to help the middle class, and the reason he’s failed is because he’s looked to Europe, not to America.”

The libertarian former obstetrician and gynaecologist, author and Texas Congressman Ron Paul is expected to appeal to independent voters and Democrats disillusioned by events of the last four years.

Paul said: “There’s special interest that benefited. The Wall Street-ers get bailed out and the debt is being dumped on the people. That has to be reversed, let me tell you.”

Staunch Catholic Rick Santorum, a former lawyer and former Pennsylvania Senator, a strong backer of the Iraq invasion and an America of traditional family values, may find good listeners among Iowa’s evangelist voters.

Santorum said: “I believe we [sic] are the best person to not just execute that plan and get this country turned around across the board — morally, culturally, economically and fiscally, as well as in our national security. But I think we are the best folks to take on Barack Obama and win this election.”

Newt Gingrich, author, political consultant, former history and geography teacher and Speaker of the House of Representatives, has enjoyed a lead position nationally, but suffered from criticism that he was an advisor to the mortgage company Fannie Mae, notoriously implicated in the subprimes crisis.

Iowa-born Michele Bachmann, member of the US House of Representatives for Minnesota, with the libertarian Tea Party political movement, has seen her campaign bog down with the defection of its manager to her rival Ron Paul.

Texas governor Rick Perry, a former Air Force transport pilot and cotton farmer who is also a former Democrat, has seen predictions for his success in the race for the Republican presidential nomination dive since August. Still, he is on record as saying “the best job in the world” is governor of Texas.

euronews made contact with experts on the ground in Iowa for their immediate view.

Tokunbo Salako, euronews: Joining me now from Iowa is Aaron Katersky, the ABC news correspondent. Aaron, can you tell me, it has almost been like a revolving doors for some of the Republican candidates here. They have enjoyed varying fortunes and reversal of fortunes for some. How decisive is this contest going to be?

Aaron Katersky, ABC correspondent:

“Seven different times the lead has changed according to public opinion polls here in Iowa over the course of this race. It’s the first time that actual Americans will have a chance to cast a ballot and in some cases here in Iowa it may be just a name written on a small scrap of paper and put into a hat. But however it’s done, it does give the public a sense of who is on top and who may have momentum going forward.”

euronews: So you say, it does give a good indication of how the main riders are positioning… However, we have seen some of the main candidates such as Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, they’ve largely ignored Iowa, why do you think that is?

Katersky: “Well, they never thought they had much of a chance. Mitt Romney has always had his roots in New England. His governorship was in Massachusetts, neighbouring New Hampshire – which is the first primary in the country – was always thought to be his strongest base of support. But then out of the sudden his rivals came and went, they flared up and then they flared out… and Mitt Romney suddenly found himself with the shot of winning Iowa. No candidate that has ever won both Iowa and New Hampshire has gone on to lose the nomination and so for Mitt Romney, if he can pull it off on Tuesday night, here in this State, he has a very good chance of becoming the Republican nominee.”

euronews: And if he doesn’t? Do you think this is going to be a fatal blow for his campaign?

Katersky: “Probably not. You don’t have to necessarily win in Iowa, but you do have to finish in the top three. No Republican has ever finished below third place in Iowa and gone on to get the nomination. So you do need the Gold, the Silver or the Bronze medal to perhaps do well… If history is any indication. But it has been more than 40 years since the Republican field had so many serious contenders for the party’s nomination for President. So this is a year unlike any other… anything is possible.

euronews: “So given that most Iowans are undecided, who are you tipping?”

Katersky: “Far be it from me to tip my hand… I am not a betting man… but there do seem to be a couple of ways this could go: Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are essentially tied for the top spot and Rick Santorum, a favourite among the cultural conservatives, has suddenly vaulted into the third place spot… And his support may be limited but it may be enough for him to get a victory here in Iowa… whether this carries him any further would remain to be seen… And no Republican candidate is talking about dropping out at this point – so we could still be in for weeks if not months of campaigning ahead.