GOP candidates gear up for Iowa caucuses

Dec. 31, 2011 at 11:28 AM   |   Comments

DES MOINES, Iowa, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Republican presidential candidates are gearing up for the Tuesday Iowa caucuses, campaigning through the holiday weekend, officials said.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is the only candidate who took off the weekend to spend New Year's Eve with his family, CNN reported.

Paul has seen an increase in his poll standings in Iowa over the past couple of weeks, putting him in second place behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. His jump in the polls has also brought him under scrutiny of other candidates and some conservative groups, who say his views on foreign policy are dangerous.

"I think going up in the polls all of a sudden, they came out of political necessity for them to find something. They couldn't find any flip-flops so they had to work on something else," he told a crowd in LeMars.

"Those people who say that these ideas that I express are dangerous, it sort of baffles me a whole lot because I think big government is dangerous. I think wars fought endlessly are dangerous. I think printing money and expanding government at will, that is what is dangerous. Attack on personal liberty, that is what's dangerous."

Romney, who is polling at first place in Iowa, will be back in the state Saturday for some last-minute campaigning.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joked with a crowd in West Des Moines Friday to back Romney -- or else.

"I want to tell you something. I want to tell you something really clearly. I am in a good mood this morning. I am feeling happy and upbeat. I love being with Mitt and Ann but let me tell you -- you people disappoint me on Tuesday? You don't do what you are supposed to on Tuesday for Mitt Romney? -- I will be back Jersey-style, people. I will be back."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich teared up at a campaign stop Friday when talking about his mother, who struggled with bipolar disorder and depression.

"See how I'm getting emotional?" he said.

Gingrich is currently battling former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Texas Gov. Rick Perry for third place.

Santorum has seen his numbers in grow significantly in Iowa.

"A week ago, we were in last place. Right now, people are thinking we might finish third," said Santorum at an event at a sports bar in Ames.

"I think we've got a very strong message and we've very effectively been able to communicate that. I'm sure the scrutiny will come," he said.

The scrutiny is already coming from Perry.

"He voted to raise the debt ceiling eight times, eight times while he was in the United States Senate -- more than doubling our debt, putting on the backs of these young people, from some $4.1 trillion to $9 trillion," Perry said about Santorum. "How can you say that is fiscally conservative?"

Meanwhile, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota is campaigning across Iowa but is seeing smaller crowds at her stops. Her poll numbers have remained in the single digits.

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