Uncertainty Rules as Iowa Caucus Approaches

Romney, Paul and Santorum battle it out in first GOP test.

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Those independents would add to Paul's rock-solid base of support, which helped him to a second-place finish in the August straw poll. Steve Payne, a homemaker from Des Moines, is an independent-turned-Republican who plans to cast his vote for Paul—even through the general election.

"If I have to, I'm probably going to write in Ron Paul [in November]," he said at a Ron Paul event Monday in Des Moines.

In addition to candidates' event appearances, campaign ads will certainly affect voters' choices.

[See pictures of the 2012 GOP candidates.]

Newt Gingrich has consistently spoken out against negative ad campaigns over the past week. A barrage of negative ads from opponents is credited with contributing to Gingrich's waning poll numbers.

Yet many voters say the recent glut of negative ads has had a counterproductive effect on them.

"The candidates don't need to be continually running each other down," said Wayne Burkhart of Woodward, who works for Costco, at a Sunday Gingrich event in Ames. The chair of his precinct, Burkhart is still undecided about whom to vote for, but says he is turned off by negative ads.

Still, says Bardwell, those ads are effective on the whole.

"There's a pretty strong consensus in political science that negative ads do work," he said.

Whatever eventually makes the difference, it won't be the weather. Today's forecast for much of Iowa features plenty of sun and above-average temperatures.

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