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As Final Pre-Caucus Debate Looms, Iowa Race Appears Wide Open

ABC News(SIOUX CITY, Iowa) -- You might think that after months of a seemingly endless string of debates, rallies, straw polls, and other campaign events, voters in the nation’s first state to select a Republican presidential nominee might have made up their minds, but this year Iowans have other ideas.

With less than three weeks until the Hawkeye State’s caucuses and only one more debate left -- Thursday night in Sioux City, Iowa -- the GOP race still appears wide open.

“In my 30 years in Iowa, I’ve never seen a race like this,” said Enrique Pena-Velasco, a Des Moines, Iowa, businessman who has yet to decide which candidate to support.

“People here in Iowa like to get to know the candidates,” he said. “It goes beyond the politics.  It goes beyond the policies of their campaigns.  We like to get to know them on a personal level, their family, feel out what they’re like, get to have a deeper relationship with them.”

According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Tuesday, Republican voters favor Newt Gingrich by a sizable margin.  The former House Speaker enjoys 40 percent support, compared to 23 percent for Mitt Romney and less than 10 percent for the rest of the candidates.  But if Gingrich is to win the GOP nomination, then he will have to overcome a series of obstacles.

Thus far, the Republican race has seen four different leaders in the last five months. In addition to Gingrich and Romney, Rick Perry and Herman Cain have also sat atop the polls this year.  Another candidate altogether, Michele Bachmann, won the first major test in Iowa -- the state’s straw poll in Ames, Iowa, last August.

And still another candidate, Ron Paul, finished a close second in Ames and, according to most prognosticators, is now in a better position than Bachmann, Perry, and Romney in the race for Iowa.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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