The Iowa caucuses are promising to be a full-on Republican throw-down as a dozen candidates are already aggressively searching for support across the state and as moderates have renewed their interest after conservative dominance in both 2008 and 2012, The Washington Post reports.
The moderate push, led by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, should ensure that "numerous candidates have a legitimate shot to win or do well enough to come out with momentum," the Post said.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has shown a deep investment in the state, while Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has come in atop several polls there, according to the Post.
And even less conventional candidates like Donald Trump have shown interest in Iowa, where at least one political operative and caucus season veteran came away impressed.
"I had never met him before, but he proved to me that he could be a good candidate," Chuck Laudner, who helped Rick Santorum earn a surprise victory in 2012, told the Post. "We had a 20-minute conversation, but he was very unassuming and only spoke for about five minutes."
A Real Clear Politics polling average
had former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee leading the state's GOP candidate pack by 3.1 points.
But an Iowa poll taken last week on behalf of Bloomberg Politics
and the Des Moines Register found Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker ahead in a race with 15 percent, a field the pollsters also dubbed "wide open," with Paul closely behind at 14 percent and Huckabee coming in with 10 percent.
Rick Perry, who mounted a tepid campaign in 2012, said he remained energized by the process in Iowa, the Post noted of the state's competitive verve.
"The boost that you get from doing well in Iowa, that’s the rocket fuel, if you will, that takes you into New Hampshire, and then takes you on into South Carolina," Perry told the Post. "If you don’t do well in Iowa, I’m not going to say it takes you out of the mix, but it sure digs you a big hole."
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