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Before the Iowa Caucuses: Romney Leads, Paul Surges, Gingrich Plummets

More than 100,000 Iowa residents are expected to gather in their communities tonight to participate in the first caucuses in the nation to begin the process of picking a Republican candidate for president. The New York Times compared tonight’s statewide events to “pulling the trigger on the starting pistol for the 2012 campaign.”

Six candidates are vying for the party’s nomination. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, is considered the front-runner. Although Romney has spent millions of dollars on negative ads against Newt Gingrich, former Republican Speaker of the House, Romney spent the last days before the caucus attacking President Barack Obama and not mentioning his Republican rivals. Gingrich was the front runner in the race until early December when Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.), the only woman in the competition, accused him in a nationally televised debate of taking $1.6 million in lobbying fees from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Gingrich said he wasn’t lobbying; he was consulting a “historian.” Bachmann, who has lagged in the polls, told the New York Times on caucus day there could be “a miracle” and that she might actually win. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorumgained in the polls in the past few weeks and is said to be among the top three candidates alongside Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). Still plugging away despite a precipitous fall in the polls is Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

In addition to the allegations that he was profiting from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government-sponsored enterprises that played a role in the low-quality mortgage scam that was a major factor in the 2008 economic collapse, Gingrich has a scary, l’etat c’est moi political platform. He promised, among other things if he becomes president, to defy U.S. Supreme Court rulings that he didn’t agree with, abolish lower courts, and allow judges to be impeached, subpoenaed even arrested by U.S. Marshals if their rulings were deemed "anti-American" by the Gingrich administration, meaning himself.

Paul, on the other hand, has gained support and a surge in the polls, placing him second to Romney, because of his anti-war stance and his recent criticism of the National Defense Authorization Act. “Little by little, in the name of fighting terrorism, our Bill of Rights is being repealed…” Paul said in The Nation. “The Patriot Act, as bad as its violation of the 4th Amendment, was just one step down the slippery slope. The recently passed [NDAA] continues that slip toward tyranny and in fact accelerates it significantly… The Bill of Rights has no exemption for 'really bad people' or terrorists or even non-citizens. It is a key check on government power against any person. This is not a weakness in our legal system; it is the very strength of our legal system."