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As Cain, Perry scramble, Gingrich seeks an opening

By Thomas Beaumont

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 10 2011 1:31 p.m. MST

Gingrich has had no paid staff in Iowa since a mass exodus of his campaign team in June. He plans to name a staff and open campaign headquarters in Iowa soon,

"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."

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.

Romney has made only four public visits to Iowa this year. But a small core of advisers and staff keeps in close touch with key elements of the Iowa network he assembled in 2007.

Romney has phoned activists and held multiple question-and-answer conference calls that included thousands of potential voters. He 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.

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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