Early Iowa returns show tight three-way Republican race

Iowa voters take part in first caucuses of presidential election.

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Republican presidential contenders Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum were locked in a tight battle as voters met across this largely rural state on Tuesday in the first contest to determine a challenger to Democratic President Barack Obama.

Partial returns from the state Republican Party showed the three candidates winning roughly 23 percent of the vote each with about 22 percent of precincts reporting.

The months-long campaign has been marked by volatility. Romney is a favorite of the party’s business wing, while Santorum appeared to be consolidating the state’s large bloc of Christian conservatives.
Paul has drawn a passionate following among libertarians and younger voters.

Iowa’s caucuses are known more for weeding out candidates than picking the future president but a strong finish here could provide a big boost in the state-by-state battle to choose the Republican to stand against Obama in the November 6 election.

Most of the candidates have topped opinion polls at one point in a race that until recently centered on televised debates rather than on-the-ground campaigning.

Many voters remain undecided and the unusual caucus process adds an element of unpredictability.
Voters gathered in public meetings at hundreds of sites around the state such as schools, libraries and churches, listening to speeches touting the various candidates before casting their ballots. Democrats and independents are allowed to participate as long as they re-register as Republicans at the site.

“I’m paying great attention, I just can’t decide,” said Judy Peters, the owner of an events center where roughly 1,000 voters were to meet. “There’s bits and pieces of each candidate that I like and bits and pieces that I don’t.”
Outside groups associated with candidates, known as “Super PACs,” have taken advantage of loosened campaign-finance rules to flood the Iowa airwaves with negative advertising.

Former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich has seen his support erode under a barrage of such attack advertisements. Early returns showed him in fourth place ahead of Texas Governor Rick Perry.

“Poor Newt. I kind of feel sorry for him. He’s just been savaged,” said voter James Patterson, who said he plans to vote for Romney. “Somebody’s really, really mad at Newt.”

Gingrich said he would keep his campaign positive.

“You have a chance tonight to send a signal to America,” he told voters in Cedar Falls. “You can do that by refusing to vote for anyone who has run negative ads.”

Sparsely populated Iowa only yields 28 delegates of the 1,143 needed to lock up the Republican presidential nomination, and those delegates aren’t actually awarded for months after Tuesday’s caucuses.

Still, the stakes are high.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is aiming for a win that could ease persistent doubts among conservatives about his moderate past and propel him toward clinching the nomination early.
He is heavily favored to win next week’s New Hampshire primary.

Surveys show Romney performs best among Republicans in head-to-head matchups with Obama in a campaign certain to focus on the economy and high unemployment.

Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, hopes to emerge as the latest conservative alternative to Romney.

“I was really not interested in any of the candidates at all and I didn’t notice Santorum because he was so low in the polls,” said Rachel Wright, an artist who spoke on behalf of Santorum at a caucus in Ames. She approved his anti-abortion stand. “He is really strong pro-lifer. I admire his faith, and I almost admire that he isn’t in our face about it.”

Largely consigned to the margins for most of the race, Santorum is now fending off attacks from his rivals who see him as a new threat. On Tuesday, he accused Paul of launching a wave of automated phone calls that questioned Santorum’s anti-abortion and pro-gun credentials.

A win by Paul, a congressman from Texas, would help him extend his minimal-government stance and broaden the appeal of his campaign outside his zealous base, many of them independents, disaffected Democrats and younger voters.

Flickering Hopes

Struggling rivals like Texas Governor Rick Perry and U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann are fighting for at least a fourth-place finish that could preserve their flickering hopes.

“People are looking for the one true core conservative that can take on Barack Obama and win. That’s what I’ve demonstrated throughout the campaign,” Bachmann told CNN.

The caucuses start a frenzied month for the Republican presidential hopefuls that will include a half-dozen debates in January and three more state votes — on January 10 in New Hampshire, January 21 in South Carolina and January 31 in Florida.

Iowa’s nominating contest has traditionally cleared the field of losers and elevated surprise contenders. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee won the 2008 Republican caucuses, but fell short of the nomination. The eventual nominee, Arizona Senator John McCain, finished a distant fourth.

Obama launched his White House run with an Iowa win four years ago. This time, Obama is the only Democrat running, but the party is holding caucuses anyway and he will address caucus-goers by video on Tuesday night.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Thousands protest in New York over Eric Garner…

The Reverend Al Sharpton led thousands of chanting but peaceful activists in a march across Staten Island on Saturday to protest the death of Eric Garner.

International

Egypt calls for Gaza ceasefire as fighting rages

Egypt called on Israel and the Palestinians on Saturday to halt fire and resume peace talks, but violence continued unabated.

National

SpaceX rocket terminated in Texas test flight

A Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon 9 rocket suffered an anomaly shortly after launch on a test flight, triggering its automatic termination system.

Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 22,…

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K and NYC Family Health Walk-a-thon and Pakistan Day Parade and Fair will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend. Plan…

Music

Arcade Fire concert review, Massachusetts, Aug. 19

Arcade Fire take the opposite approach of "Shut up and play the hits," and it works in their favor on the "Reflektor" tour.

Television

Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.

Music

Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm

Movies

Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.

NFL

3 things we learned about the Giants in…

The Giants claimed the Snoopy trophy in a battle of MetLife Stadium tenants Friday night. But more importantly, the offense finally showed some life in…

NFL

3 things we learned about the Jets in…

The Jets lost the Snoopy Bowl, 35-24, to the Giants, losing the trophy and local bragging rights.

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

Wellbeing

Asics is giving away free gear around NYC…

Asics wants to see you on the court - and in the stands for the U.S. Open, which begins Monday - by giving away free…

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…