Final Rush in Iowa 

Posted: 10:27 pm Sunday, January 1st, 2012

By Jamie Dupree

After months or campaign work, the major Republican candidates for President are down to their final hours of work in Iowa, dashing around the Hawkeye State in a furious bid to win over GOP voters in the first showdown of the 2012 campaign for the White House.

As of now, Mitt Romney remains ahead in the polls, trying to avoid the second place finish he had four years ago.

“This presidency has been a failure for the American people,” Romney said at a stop in Atlantic, Iowa on Sunday, where he again took repeated jabs at President Obama, even as he worked in a few shots at Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich as well.

A late poll from the Des Moines Register showed that Santorum might be the next “flavor of the month” on the GOP side, as his longshot candidacy suddenly was finding traction with Iowa voters.

“This race has been about two candidates – the problems is it hasn’t been the same two candidates for any two months in a row,” Santorum said to backers, noting the extreme volatility of this race.

Some conservatives were beginning to argue that if Santorum was able to move into the top three and finish higher than both Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, then maybe those two should think about dropping out.

Both Perry and Bachmann signaled over the weekend that they may not do much work at all in New Hampshire over the next week, opting instead to jump ahead to the more conservative state of South Carolina, which holds a primary on January 21.

New Hampshire votes on January 10.

All of the GOP hopefuls had a full schedule on Monday, ranging from a Perry rally in the west in Sioux Falls, to Santorum’s multiple events around Des Moines to Romney, Gingrich and Ron Paul all hitting Davenport within a few hours of each other in the east of Iowa.

The latest big poll came from the Des Moines Register over the weekend, which historically has proven to be very accurate – it showed Romney with a narrow lead over Paul and Santorum surging into third, with Gingrich and Perry just behind. Bachmann was trailing the field.

The big question was where conservative voters who backed Mike Huckabee four years ago would end up – and would they dilute their votes in the process by spreading their support to Santorum, Bachmann, Perry and Gingrich.

The ad wars continued meanwhile on radio and television, with more tough ads against Gingrich, as well as positive ads by candidates like Perry, still hoping to get a second look from voters.

GOP voters here remain somewhat underwhelmed with the Republican field, as Mitt Romney’s support level has remained the same while others rocket up in the polls and then fall back with a thud.

Iowa Republicans have until 7pm Central Time on Tuesday to make up their minds.