As Tim Smart points out on U.S. News's new blog The Ballot 2012, the Iowa caucuses that will kick start the GOP presidential primary process are only a week away. For months, 2012 hopefuls have been politicking in the state, speaking at town halls, blanketing radio and TV waves with campaign ads, and participating in events like the Ames Straw Poll. Many see Iowa as the place for an increasingly conservative Republican electorate to pick its best representative to take on President Obama next November. "Iowans were conservative before conservatism was cool," Danielle Kurtzleben explains.
As January 3 approaches, Ken Walsh discusses the six things to look out for in the tumultuous Republican field. If former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney can clinch a victory, it could be an easy ride for him through the rest of the primaries to the nomination. Even a Rep. Ron Paul win could be good news for Romney—though Paul has been surging in Iowa polls, he is still considered largely unelectable at the national level. However, if former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, or one of the other "non-Romney's" who have risen (and subsequently fallen) in popularity challenge Romney in Iowa, it would signal that conservatives are still reluctant to get behind a candidate many see as a flip-flopper.
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