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Eyes on the Hawkeye State

Paul specter looms even as Romney positions self

Allison Hoffman
December 30, 2011
Mitt Romney in Ames, Iowa, yesterday.(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)
Mitt Romney in Ames, Iowa, yesterday.(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

This is it: the last heady rush of pre-game campaigning before Iowans caucus next Tuesday and formally open the Republican nominating process. Newt Gingrich has been sinking in the polls—earning him a melancholy little profile in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine—while Rep. Ron Paul has leapfrogged into contention alongside the current leader, Mitt Romney.

Accordingly, there’s been a lot of chatter about anti-Israel and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories published under his name and about his isolationist foreign policy stance, which includes calls for cutting aid to Israel. Much of that chatter has come from Romney fans, and from Romney himself. “The greatest threat Israel faces and frankly the greatest threat that the world faces is a nuclear Iran,” Romney told an audience in Muscatine on Tuesday. “One of the people running for president thinks it’s okay for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”

Romney, who one imagines is exhausted by months of playing whack-a-mole with the rest of the GOP field, is looking for the win on Tuesday, and while there aren’t many Jews in the Hawkeye State, there are many evangelical Christians. It’s to Romney’s advantage to push them away from Paul, though that increases the plausibility of Rick Santorum pulling off a Mike Huckabee and stealing the show.

But Romney and Santorum have both also said they would vote for Paul if he eventually clinches the Republican nomination. And there are still four long days between now and Tuesday night. In the meantime, as the general public focuses on the GOP field with an intensity that it hasn’t for almost four years, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor—the highest-ever ranked Jew in Congress, and favorite for national office among many on the right—is going to be on 60 Minutes this Sunday taking Lesley Stahl back to his hometown, Richmond, though not, apparently, for Thanksgiving. Welcome to 2012, and beyond!

Allison Hoffman is the executive editor of CNN Politics.

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