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Odd notes, mad-dash trips mark Iowa closing sprint

 Republican Presidential candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. meets with patrons at the Nodaway Diner during a campaign stop, Wednesday, Dec. 28,...
 Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks to local residents during a campaign stop at USA Furniture and Beddin...

Bachmann 2012

Republican Presidential candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. meets with patrons at the Nodaway Diner during a campaign stop, Wednesday, Dec. 28,...

Santorum 2012

Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks to local residents during a campaign stop at USA Furniture and Beddin...

Iowa's Republican presidential contest remains deeply unsettled, if not downright strange, five days before the Jan. 3 caucus.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, drawing big crowds, got a surprise endorsement Wednesday night from Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's now-former state chairman.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who has languished for months, suddenly seems to have momentum, just as former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich may be losing his.
And Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who began the campaign by de-emphasizing Iowa, might be poised to finish on top, according to some new polls.
The winner in the state's precinct nominating meetings gains a significant boost in the battle among seven Republicans vying to be the party's candidate to challenge President Barack Obama in November. The Iowa gatherings mark the start of the six month period during which each U.S. state will hold primary elections or caucuses to select delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. The party candidate is officially nominated there in August.
Obama is vulnerable as he seeks a second term, weighed down with voter dissatisfaction over his handling of the economy and the stagnant recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-2009.
Romney now is making an unabashed push in Iowa. His rivals are scrambling to deny him huge momentum heading into the Jan. 10 primary in New Hampshire, his second home.
Paul, the 76-year-old libertarian-leaning Texan, drew about 500 people at the Iowa State fairgrounds in Ames late Wednesday. A group of Occupy Wall Street activists tried to interrupt the rally, but that wasn't the main surprise.
State Sen. Kent Sorenson, who had campaigned a few hours earlier with Bachmann as a state chairman of her bid, announced he would support Paul instead.
Paul's anti-government appeal appears to tap into the desire of a frustrated electorate for profound change in an era of high unemployment and weak economic growth.
"In the last couple of weeks I fell into Ron Paul's camp," said Bob Colby of Newton, who spent 21 years in the military and is a former employee of a now-shuttered Maytag plant in town.
Paul, who is airing TV ads hitting Romney and Gingrich, planned a town hall meeting Thursday in Perry, Iowa, plus stops in Atlantic and Council Bluffs.
There were other odd campaign notes Wednesday.
Two politically active Christian pastors in Iowa's robust evangelical conservative movement disclosed an effort to persuade either Santorum or Bachmann to quit the race and endorse the other.
"Otherwise, like-minded people will be divided and water down their impact," said Rev. Cary Gordon, a Sioux City minister and a leader among Iowa's social conservatives.
Neither candidate appeared interested.
Meanwhile, an ever more confident Romney scheduled stops Thursday in Cedar Falls, Mason City and Ames. He's running television ads asserting he is the best candidate to defeat Obama.
Asked Wednesday about the prospects for back-to-back victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, Romney demurred. "I can't possibly allow myself to think in such optimistic terms," he said. "I just have to put my head down and battle as best I can."
Santorum seems to be gaining steam, according to a Time-CNN survey and some private polls. "We're very, very happy with the new numbers," he told reporters in Dubuque.
Acknowledging widespread voter anger in an age of high unemployment, Santorum told an audience Wednesday: "If you want to stick it to the man, don't vote for Ron Paul. That's not sticking it to anybody but the Republican Party."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry adjusted his position on abortion for a second straight day, telling reporters he would allow abortion if a woman's life were at risk. On Tuesday, he had told a pastor that he had undergone a "transformation" on abortion rights and now opposed the procedure in cases of rape or incest after having recently met a woman who said she was conceived by a rape.
Asked if a mother's life was the only instance when he would allow abortion, he was concise as he boarded his bus Wednesday: "That's correct."
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is running last among the seven Republicans and has not mounted a significant campaign in Iowa. He came to the race after serving as Obama's ambassador to China.
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Associated Press writers Thomas Beaumont, Brian Bakst, David Espo, Philip Elliott, Beth Fouhy, Mike Glover, Kasie Hunt and Shannon McCaffrey contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-04-24 00:30 GMT+08:00