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One of the historical myths about the Iowa caucus is the top three finishers are all perceived to be winners with a chance to win the nomination. However, former Sen. Fred Thompson came in third in Iowa and dropped out of the campaign. John McCain gained the endorsement of the Des Moines Register in 2008 as well as the nomination, but he didn’t finish in the top three in ’08 or ’00. In fact, since 1980, the only Republican non-incumbent who has won the caucuses and gone on to win the presidency is George W. Bush.
This year, the Republican party doesn’t seem to have identified a true and clear leader to take on President Obama. Polls say establishment candidate Mitt Romney is in pole position, followed closely by libertarian Ron Paul and the surging social conservative Rick Santorum. Newt Gingrich’s once commanding lead has been shrunk by more than $2 million in negative ads, most from a Romney-affiliated PAC and each week one of the Republican candidates emerges has the new leader of the pack.
Mitt Romney has by far spent more time and money running for the Presidency than anyone else yet he seems to be having trouble truly gaining the confidence of his party. For the first 10 months of 2011, for the most part Romney dismissed the state of Iowa, still stinging from his expensive rejection in 2008. But his well-funded campaign was able to buy aspects of a statewide organization and negative ads to tear down rivals and even still, he only hedged out a win by the hair of his chinny chin chin.
While there are still months to go for that great day in November, the Republican race for the nominee is extremely entertaining.