Campaign headquarters in the Hawkeye State have hardly been buzzing with activity, unlike the around-the-clock nature of past contests, the Huff Post reports.
Candidates have barely visited the state, if to compare 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 year of 2011 was mostly 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.”
Iowans simply don’t know the Republican presidential candidates 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.
In a sign that the contest is anyone’s to win, most polls have shown most Republican caucusgoers undecided and willing to change their minds before the contest in a state where the vote typically breaks late in the campaign year.
Long-time Republican activists in Iowa, who often joke that they like to meet the candidates several times before deciding, have barely seen the candidates once, much less at all, and no campaign has more than 20 paid staff in the state.
This is partly a consequence of how technology has changed both the political and media environments in recent years. Campaigns now can more precisely – and cheaply – target their pitches to voters from afar, sending personalized e-mails and YouTube video messages from the candidates to voters directly.
More campaign outreach is being handled by volunteers and through central national websites. And voters, themselves, now can go online and find information about the candidates without having to wait for the White House hopeful to show up in the town square.
The GOP front-runner for most of the year, Romney has been far less aggressive in cultivating support in Iowa than in his failed bid of 2008. He’s only spent 10 days in the state this year, compared to 77 days four years ago.
Paul, the Texas congressman, has been focused more on building a national following than being a one-state candidate.
Gingrich only became a serious contender in the state a few weeks ago. He’s struggled to reach all parts of the state more than once; it was just last week that he visited Ottumwa, seat of the county Caviness represents and a medium-size Iowa city uniquely situated in the southeast with its own small media market.
Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry have suffered a blow to their White House bids by failing to qualify for Virginia’s 2012 Republican primary, according to The Telegraph.
It could mean an especially serious political setback for Mr Gingrich, a front-runner in the Republican race to challenge President Barack Obama in next year’s presidential election, as it exposes an organisational weakness of his campaign 10 days before the first-in-the-nation nominating contest in Iowa.
“After verification, (the party) has determined that Newt Gingrich did not submit the required 10,000 signatures and has not qualified for the VA primary,” the Republican Party of Virginia said in a Twitter message.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Saturday that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney – widely seen as Gingrich’s chief rival – and Texas congressman Ron Paul will be the only candidates appearing on the ballot.
“Only a failed system excludes four out of the six major candidates seeking access to the ballot,” Mr Gingrich’s campaign manager Michael Krull said in a statement reported on the Politico website.
“Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates.” “For Gingrich it’s a disaster,” Larry Sabato, head of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, told the Times-Dispatch. “He was the Virginia front-runner. It also sends a message to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire that his campaign isn’t serious.”