ByÂ THOMAS BEAUMONT
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — It’s been a different presidential race in Iowa this year – quieter.Campaign headquarters have hardly been buzzing with activity, unlike the around-the-clock nature of past contests. Candidates have barely visited the state, compared with years when most all but moved here. And they have largely refrained from building the grass-roots armies of yesteryear, in favor of more modest on-the-ground teams of paid staffers and volunteers.
The final rush of campaigning here gets under way Monday, just a week before the Jan. 3 caucuses, and, to be sure, there will be a flurry of candidate appearances and get-out-the-vote efforts all week.
But that will belie the reality of much of 2011, a year marked by a less aggressive personal courtship of Iowans in a campaign that, instead, has largely gravitated around a series of 13 nationally televised debates, a crush of television ads and interviews on media outlets watched by many Republican primary voters, like Fox News Channel.
“We just haven’t had as much face time,” Republican chairwoman Trudy Caviness in Wapello County said. “That’s why we’re so undecided.”
Indeed, people here simply don’t know the Republican presidential candidates that well. And it’s a big reason why the contest in Iowa is so volatile and why the caucus outcome could end up being more representative of the mood of national Republicans than in past years when GOP activists here have gone it alone by launching an unlikely front-runner to the top of the field.
With a week to go, the state of the race in Iowa generally mirrors the race from coast to coast.
Polls show Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, having lost ground and Texas Rep. Ron Paul having risen, with both still in contention with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at the head of the pack. All the others competing in Iowa – Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum – are trailing.
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