VOTE 2012

Iowa caucuses rapidly approaching as Romney, Gingrich square off

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Taken together, the pair has set up a choice for Republican primary voters between a candidate who has struggled to excite the conservative base but emphasizes his appeal to the independents the party will need to win the White House — or the candidate who sounds more conservative.

Romney and Gingrich continue to battle as the days tick down to the Iowa caucuses. (Photo: Associated Press)

While Romney and Gingrich were on the East Coast on Sunday, their other rivals were campaigning across Iowa. Texas Gov. Rick Perry continued his bus tour across the state, as did Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum planned two town hall meetings in the conservative western portion of the state.

All were making last-ditch appeals to voters as the campaign for the caucuses enters its final weeks. As candidates met with caucus-goers, their campaigns — and their SuperPAC allies — were planning major ad offensives on TV. Gingrich's campaign is so far planning to spend about $14,000 on ads next week — while his rivals and their allies planned to spend more than $1.3 million promoting themselves or attacking him.

Where will the candidates campaign?

Campaigning will continue into next week, with Gingrich also planning to spend the early part of the week in Iowa. He'll head to New Hampshire Wednesday, where Romney will already be part way through a four-day bus tour. Romney won't return to Iowa until after Christmas.

His confidence increasing, Romney has stepped away from his aggressive attacks on Gingrich in recent days, instead shifting his focus back to Obama — and working to humanize himself on the campaign trail. That focus was on display in Sunday's interview, when Romney spoke emotionally about his wife's struggle with multiple sclerosis.

He said the "toughest time" in his life was standing in the doctor's office waiting for her diagnosis. He said he feared she had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, a fatal degenerative nerve condition.

The doctor "did these neurological tests, and then he — and we could see that she had real balance problems and she didn't have feeling in places she should have feeling," Romney said. "And he stepped out of the room, and we stood up and hugged each other, and I said to her, 'As long as it's not something fatal, I'm just fine. Look, I'm happy in life as long as I've got my soul mate with me.'"

After her diagnosis, Ann Romney was concerned that she wouldn't be able to do things that she had in the past. "And I said, 'Look, I don't care what the meals are like, you know, I like cold cereal and peanut butter sandwiches,'" Romney said. "We could do fine with that as long as we have each other. And if you think about what makes a difference to you in your life, it's people. Life is all about the people you love."

Gingrich, meanwhile, was relaxed and jovial in his CBS interview with Bob Schieffer. He acknowledged his comeback has exceeded even his own expectations. Earlier this year top campaign aides and consultants resigned en masse and his White House bid was burdened with deep debt.

"As we were sliding down. I thought I could fight my way back up to being in the top three or four," said Gingrich, now a front-runner for the nomination. "But I think positive ideas and positive solutions... have attracted people. I think they like the idea of someone who's determined to be positive."


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