This post will be “sticky” until early evening when we go “Live” at about 7 p.m. 7:30 p.m. Eastern, and will collect news from Iowa during the day, with the most recent on top:

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With the Iowa Caucuses just a few hours away and the live event scheduled to begin soon, some parting thoughts…

1.While the caucuses are important, and a win there signifies the strength of your campaign, it is far from determinative and is just the beginning of a long, arduous primary season. More than anything, Iowa results bring with it momentum for those who prevail, and perhaps a dose of reality for those who fail offering an opportunity for them to drop out.

2. There is this tendency for people to say the top 3 finishers  (the win, place, or show candidates) are the only ones who stand a chance at winning the nomination. Although a top 3 finish certainly adds momentum to a candidate’s campaign, John McCain took 4th in 2008 and at the end of the primaries was the one who stood toe to toe with Barack Obama in the general election.

3. In 2008 the Iowa winner, Mike Huckabee, took home over 34% of the vote. I think this year’s field will be much more spread out which opens the door for even the right 5th place finisher to possibly be able to grab the nomination if they do well in the later primaries. I stress that it has to be the right candidate because if a Bachmann or a Paul finish 5th in Iowa, their campaign is effectively over.

4. I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s updates and please check out and comment on the live feed once it is up and running around 7:30. The best part about the American political process is the dialogue and diversity of opinions so keep them coming!

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Candidates “rock the caucus” at local Iowa high school. Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Michelle Bachmann, along with four of Mitt Romney’s children spoke to 800 students at Valley High School in Iowa attempting to garner support from potential young caucus goers. As is to be expected, Ron Paul got the most raucous applause following his speech to the group where he highlighted his typical talking points of slashing $1 trillion in federal spending, and bringing the troops home from Afghanistan.

Santorum used the time to take a few subtle jabs at the Obama administration warning the young students of the ramifications of the mounting debt accumulating under President Obama. While Santorum and Paul are the latest beneficiaries of the Not-Mitt conservative crowd in recent polls, it will be interesting to see how much of that poll support will actually translate into votes in the booth. While the traditional line of thinking is that because Paul supporters are the most “die hard”, his poll support is likely to show at the end of the night, I have a hard time buying into the fact that Paul’s stalwart libertarian base has suddenly expanded practically overnight from the mid-single digits into the low 20′s. For that reason, I think the recent support for Paul, like Santorum and the others, is the same fickle support that carries with it the “subject to change” asterisk that has plagued the entire Not-Mitt republican field.

As we inch closer to voting time, its still anybody’s game.

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Mitt Romney is now making the final rounds in Iowa attempting to buoy his support above that seemingly impenetrable 25% ceiling that has dogged him throughout the entire election season. Although the frontrunner in many polls, Romney has positioned himself as an underdog in Iowa because of his inability to achieve any upward mobility there. Predictions have recently been released saying that Romney may win, but it will likely be with under 25% of the vote. To do so, he will rely heavily on the other candidates splitting up the remaining 75% amongst each other enough so that none of them crack the 25% mark either.

In a recent New York Times article, they argued that Romney could claim a relative victory even he is not in the top 3 at the end of the day today because of the cautious way in which he approached the Iowa Caucuses. However, while Romney had Iowa on the periphery of his campaign early on, he turned up the heat in December utilizing a combination of his campaign dollars and pro-Romney Super PACs to air nearly 3,800 ads in Iowa, more than any other candidate. Despite the nonchalance about Iowa the Romney campaign is attempting to project to the American public at large, the truth is that Romney has fixated his campaign directly on the caucuses and spent millions of campaign dollars there. Even a win with under 25% of the vote would still point out a gaping hole in Romney’s campaign strategy that will only become more apparent as the primaries move beyond New Hampshire: Money can’t buy you love with the conservative voting bloc.

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Making the last-minute push for Gingrich: Newt’s daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman said today on Fox News, “We’re not nervous” about the upcoming caucuses. “Dad is the only candidate in the field, including President Barack Obama, who has on a national level, balanced a budget, reformed welfare, cut taxes, and cut spending. He’s done it before, and he can do it again.” She acknowledged that the millions of dollars spent on attack ads targeting her father have taken their toll on Gingrich’s once stellar numbers in Iowa, but recalls that nearly every single expert counted him out once before just a few months ago, only to be proven wrong. “He’s like the energizer bunny, he just goes on and on.”

Former one-time front runner Herman Cain, who suspended his campaign in early December, said on Fox News today that he has not suspended his mission for a national movement. But don’t expect an endorsement by caucus time or any of the early primaries. Cain said that he does not want to split his supporters by endorsing a candidate too early on, but that he will eventually back one of the candidates. Despite the fact that the Cain fervor is not as palpable as it once was, I think a Cain endorsement will still carry with it a noticeable amount of votes, but perhaps more importantly, a much needed influx of money left over from his campaign.

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Iowans officially begin the caucus process today at 7pm Central. The polls are fluctuating on a seemingly daily basis with Rick Santorum and Ron Paul making their late surges while Mitt Romney continues to hold steady at around 23%. Although Gingrich has dropped back in the pack a bit of late due in large part to an onslaught of negative campaigning against him by his opponents in Iowa, he still has plenty of reason to believe he can fare well tonight.

Especially in the case of Iowa, these polls are not necessarily illustrative of what the outcome will be in the caucuses themselves. The most telling statistic of why Iowans are in a constant state of flip-flop is the fact that at least 40% remain undecided as to who they will cast their vote for when they actually step into the booth. Perhaps the only thing certain about tonight is that the outcome is anything but a foregone conclusion.

In other news, Bachmann has released a new ad signaling her floundering campaign intends to stay in the race in Iowa and beyond. This will not likely have a grand effect on the final results of the caucuses, but it could work to pull some of that conservative base away from Santorum and hamper his late surge.

Update:  Also check out the updates at And So It Goes In Shreveport.

 
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