No clear favorite has emerged yet for the Iowa caucuses, which take place Jan. 3, with the field wide open to an unprecedented extent, the state’s Republican governor, Terry Branstad, tells Politico
“This is the most up-in-the-air, unsettled caucus I’ve ever seen,” said the 65-year-old Iowan who has been involved in state politics since the 1970s. “It’s a very fluid situation. It all depends upon who does well in these last two debates and then has the momentum and the ability to get their people to the caucuses. . . . It’s gonna be a dog fight here in the end.”
With seven candidates in the running, Branstad doesn’t expect anyone to garner more than 30 percent of the vote. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich can take home the Iowa trophy if he does well in the final two debates, Branstad says.
“It depends on how motivated people are to get out,” he said. “We’ve seen him look like he was out of it to now riding high. The question is how well he performs in these debates. Now he’s the front-runner, and everyone attacks the front-runner.”
The importance of the debates has become paramount, the governor said.
“The debates have had more to do with this than anything else,” he said. “I still think organization matters, and yet more people are watching the debates.”
Gingrich has not made a big effort in Iowa until now, opening his state headquarters just Wednesday. But Branstad said he will benefit from having long-time Iowa operatives Craig Schoenfeld and Katie Koberg on his staff.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann may exceed expectations thanks to the large amount of time they’ve spent in the state, the governor said.
Meanwhile he sees Texas Rep. Ron Paul possessing the strongest campaign organization in the state, with very loyal supporters.
“He’s got more yard signs and bumper stickers than anybody else,” Branstad said. “I don’t think he’ll win, but I think he will get 15 to 18 percent. The person who wins is going to probably get 25 percent plus.”
Branstad said retired businessman Herman Cain must make a “personal” decision about whether to stay in the race.
“I don’t know if he stays in or not,” the governor said. “Initially a lot of people when the first allegations came out were going to give him the benefit of the doubt, but now it’s just one after another after another.”
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