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GOP Candidates Join Another Party For New Year's


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

Even though seven Republican presidential candidates ushered in the New Year, a new poll by the Des Moines Register in Iowa makes it look like a three-person race. We'll fill you in on the latest shuffle of front-runners in a moment. But first, how did the Republicans candidates spend New Year's Eve?

So we sent NPR's Sonari Glinton to find out.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Before we begin, let's check off the candidate who weren't in Iowa. Ron Paul's campaign says he was spending the holiday in Texas. Jon Huntsman was in New Hampshire campaigning. There was Mitt Romney.

MITT ROMNEY: I look at the website to see what's going on in Des Moines on New Year's Eve. And there's a celebration of the music of the Doors at a place called - is it the Brickyard, I think? So we'll see whether we go there or whether we just hang out in the lobby of the hotel. Not sure yet.

GLINTON: And while the former Massachusetts governor wrapped his day on a bus, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum traveled by pick-up truck, which he took on the trail to Ottumwa, Iowa.

RICK SANTORUM: I know of candidates come through and say, well, we - that they need your help. They're lying. I need you help.


GLINTON: And recent polls show he's been getting that help. But what were his plans for the New Year?


SANTORUM: Just going to be with my kids.

GLINTON: The candidates kept a pretty low profile once the clock struck 12. Michele Bachmann staff said the congresswoman was spending the holiday with her family. We heard rumors of a private Rick Perry party, though we couldn't confirm.

The closest we came to a candidate celebrating was this:


GLINTON: Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney staffers used the same downtown Des Moines hotel lobby to ring in the New Year. Neither candidate showed up, but Newt Gingrich's wife did make a cameo.

It turns out the real party wasn't with the candidates. Several Iowa Republican power brokers got their groove on at what was called the Raucous Before the Caucus.


GLINTON: And yes there was some electric (unintelligible).

GOVERNOR TERRY BRANSTAD: The benefit of the caucus, I'll be very open and honest with you, is we're first.

GLINTON: That's the governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad.

BRANSTAD: It's pretty hard to get a reservation anywhere in the capitol city tonight, and I think a lot of places in Iowa have certainly benefitted by all the attention.

GLINTON: In addition to the governor there was another Republican power broker, ringing in the New Year.

REPRESENTATIVE STEVE KING: Sure, I'm Congressman Steve King. I represent Iowa's Fifth District which is the western third of Iowa.

GLINTON: King has been called the king maker because of the pull he has with conservatives in Iowa, but so far the candidates have not impressed him.

KING: None of them in my mind, yes, have emerged with the vision to take America to the next level of our destiny. And that troubles me.

GLINTON: According to recent polls, King isn't the only one unconvinced. More than a third of likely caucus goers say they could still change their minds.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News, Des Moines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.