As Cain, Perry scramble, Gingrich seeks an opening

By Thomas Beaumont

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 10 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

"What I'm seeing now is a real surge of energy" for Gingrich, said supporter Linda Upmeyer, Iowa's House majority leader. "The bright, shiny things have come and gone, and now people are focusing on a decision. Time is approaching, and we need to get busy. But the energy behind Newt is growing at the right time."

A key question is whether Romney will see Cain's and Perry's problems as a chance to make a big push in Iowa. A win there would make him the prohibitive favorite. But to fare poorly after raising expectations would echo his disappointing Iowa performance four years ago.

He has kept a low profile there so far this year, visiting the state only four times. But a small core of advisers and staff keeps in close touch with key elements of the Iowa network he assembled in 2007.

Romney's Iowa visits have been to counties he carried four years ago. He has phoned activists and held multiple question-and-answer conference calls that included thousands of potential voters.

The aim of the lower-profile campaign has been to suppress expectations, which got away from Romney four years ago as he waged a $10 million campaign only to lose to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Sen. John McCain then won the New Hampshire primary, and eventually the nomination.

This year, Romney has been the most consistent poll leader in Iowa without pulling away. The Des Moines Register's late-October survey showed Romney with 22 percent, narrowly trailing Cain.

Romney has a healthy contingent of precinct-level caucus leaders, an edge over many of his rivals. He has sponsored phone calls criticizing Perry's position on immigration. He plans more telephone town-hall meetings and is moving closer to airing advertisements for the campaign's closing weeks.

However, Romney has avoided multi-candidate forums in Iowa. He is not expected to participate in an event sponsored by a social conservative group in Des Moines on Nov. 19, or the evening fundraiser for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad the same evening. Several other candidates are expected at both events.

Associated Press writers Kasie Hunt in Michigan, Shannon McCaffrey in Atlanta and Phil Elliott and Steve Peoples in Washington contributed to this report. Beaumont reported from Iowa.

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