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U.S. Republicans make last-minute push for Iowa caucuses

(Xinhua)

08:13, January 04, 2012

DES MOINES, the United States. Jan. 3 (Xinhua) - Six U.S. Republican presidential hopefuls on Tuesday made their last minute push to win over hearts and minds of Iowans, hours away from the state's first in the nation caucuses.

The contest has no clear frontrunner now, as former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who led the field for months, is now facing realistic threat from a surging Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, and Ron Paul, the libertarian- leaning Congressman from Texas.

Romney began the day hammering President Barack Obama in front of supporters at an event in Des Moines, without mentioning his opponents. Santorum and Paul, however, didn't hold their guns, as both engaged attacks aimed at each other.

Santorum blasted Paul's foreign policy stance and accused the Texan of negative campaigns against him.

Paul, meanwhile, hit back saying Santorum is in fact "very liberal" and "spends too much money," referring to his congressional voting record on earmarks and raising federal debt ceiling.

Other candidates also arranged a series of appearances and rallies across the state. Poll results indicate about 40 percent of caucus goers could change their mind, and that made the race a wide-open one.

The intense contest is predicted to draw droves of Iowan Republicans to participate in the caucuses, to be held in more than 1,700 sites across the state. Party officials are predicting over 120,000 caucus goers, exceeding 2008's over 119,000.

The contest is set to begin at 7 p.m. CST, and early results could begin to trickle in by 8. Dennis Goldford, a politics professor at Drake University, said the results could become clear late in the evening.

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