DES MOINES, Iowa — Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is rallying his diehard supporters, whom his rivals regard as the greatest complication in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
With less than a week until Iowa's leadoff contest, Paul planned to meet with supporters near Des Moines. The other GOP candidates spread out across the state Wednesday to woo potential caucus-goers, many of whom are still undecided amid a flood of television and radio ads. Paul's rivals also worked to disqualify him on social issues, foreign affairs and even his decades-old newsletter.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Tuesday he couldn't vote for Paul if he were to become the GOP nominee and called his views "totally outside the mainstream of every decent American" during an interview with CNN.
Gov. Rick Perry said during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs that his fellow Texan was dangerous: "You don't have to vote for a candidate who would allow Iran to wipe Israel off the face of the earth and then ultimately America."
As Paul's poll numbers have risen, so has scrutiny of him. That has led to questions about a newsletter he published in the early 1990s, when he was not serving in Congress. Among the quotes from the newsletter: "Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities."
Paul has said many of the passages were written by aides but acknowledged he was responsible.
A conservative with libertarian leanings, Paul commands strong allegiance from his supporters but appears to have little potential to expand his appeal and emerge as a serious challenger for the nomination. Yet he could complicate other candidates' pathway to the nomination.
Some polls show Paul on top in Iowa, and a caucus victory for him could prove embarrassing to candidates such as Rep. Michele Bachmann or former Sen. Rick Santorum. Both essentially relocated to Iowa — it's Bachmann's birthplace — with hopes that momentum from here would launch a national campaign.
"If I finish dead last, way behind the pack, I'm going to pack up and go home," Santorum said in a radio interview on WHO in Des Moines. "But I don't think that's going to happen."
Santorum, more than any of the others, has campaigned in Iowa the old-fashioned way — by doggedly visiting all 99 counties and holding hundreds of town hall meetings.
Bachmann was trying to match that. She scheduled 11 stops Wednesday to build momentum and media attention. She is lagging in fundraising, as her rivals have poured millions of dollars in advertising onto the airwaves.
The candidates and allied groups have spent more than $12 million on commercials to air through caucus day next Tuesday. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Perry and groups supporting the two men account for almost half the total, according to one estimate.
Gingrich and Perry also planned to continue their bus tours, although at a slower clip.
Romney, who a day earlier looked past his Republican rivals toward the general election during a speech to Iowans, planned the first three stops of his tour in a state he had largely kept at arm's length.
"Mr. President, you have now had your moment," he said Tuesday, criticizing President Barack Obama and sounding every bit the nominee he hopes to become. "We have seen the results. And now, Mr. President, it is our time."
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