MARION – Even as they listened to the 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls barnstorming Eastern Iowa on the final full day of the campaign, many caucusgoing Republicans seemed no closer to a decision on who to support at Iowa’s first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses Jan. 3 than they were weeks or months ago.
At whistle-stop rallies for newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney Jan. 2, many voters said they were still trying to make up their minds. Some said they might not reach a decision until they arrive at one of 1,774 GOP precinct caucuses set to begin at 7 p.m.
“It might come down to which candidate has the best speaker” at her caucus , Lori Parks of Cedar Rapids said as she waited with a couple of hundred others at Pate Asphalt in Marion Monday afternoon to hear former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. He’s not her first choice, but Parks thinks he may be the most electable Republican seeking to challenge President Obama.
Parks had been at Gingrich’s rally at Schrader Excavating in Walford earlier in the day and questioned him about immigration. His answer helped.
“I’m not as opposed to him as before,” she said, then shrugged as she added, “But am I for him?”
Parks also caught Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s rally at the Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids.
“I made the circuit, but I haven’t made up my mind,” she said.
Parks wasn’t alone. Recent polls have shown that as many as 40 percent of likely caucusgoers are either undecided or say they could change their mind.
Loras Schulte, the Benton County GOP chairman, thinks the indecision is because people truly want to make the right decision. It’s that important, he said.
“More than ever, people want to make sure their vote counts, that it means something,” Schulte said at the Gingrich rally. In his case, Schulte said he had just reached a decision over over the weekend.
For others in the crowd of 150 or more, there are too many good choices.
“It’s like a buffet – there are a lot of things that look good,” Vicente Javier of Cedar Rapids said as he waited for Gingrich. He’s “leaning, but just leaning” toward Gingrich.
It was a different story at Paul’s rally. There were few undecided caucusgoers among the more than 150 people who came to see Paul and his son, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
“I’m fully committed and have been for some time,” said Lorena Madden of Cedar Rapids. Paul, she said, “will do the most to help Americans of every income level.”
“We’re concerned with our future,” Tim Huwaldt of Marion said to explain the high percentage of younger voters at the Paul rally. It’s not only the deficits and debt burdens that will challenge his generation, Huwaldt said, “but we’re concerned about our liberty.”
William Gregg, Riley Chandler and John Olofson left Kearney, Neb., at 4 a.m. to attend the Cedar Rapids rally.
“We recognize the destructive nature of federal policy and see our freedoms being restricted,” Gregg said. “We want a more peaceful future.”
They feel confident that Paul, who hasn’t wavered in his constitutional principles in more than 30 years, will not disappoint them as president, added Chandler.
In many cases, people said their choices are made difficult because they like parts of each candidates’ plans.
“So many of them are saying the so much of the same thing,” Judy Dicken of Cedar Rapids said as she waited to hear Romney.
That makes the decision easier for Jeffrey Meyers of Cedar Rapids, who is supporting Paul.
“All the others are so interchangeable,” he said. “I mean, what’s the difference between (Michele) Bachmann and (Rick) Santorum? Not much.”
Margaret Blackhurst Goff of Cedar Rapids was still trying to sort things out Monday afternoon at the Romney rally, but she had help. She was there with her mother and an aunt.
“We sort of vote as a bloc,” said Blackhurst Goff, who was wearing a Reagan-Bush pin from 1984 – the last time she caucused. “We’ve been discussing our decision for a couple of months.”
She hoped hearing Romney in person would help her make up her mind.
That helps, said Lori Parks, but no one had closed the deal with her.
She took a quiz to see which candidate was the best fit with her on a range of issues.
“That got me my short list,” Parks said. “I guess I’ll be doing some more web research.”
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