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Tuesday's the day -- the first votes of the Presidential election will be counted as Republicans start the process of choosing their nominee. So what did the final numbers say? The two men in the lead, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) are stagnating as we approach the Iowa caucuses, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R) is picking up support in a major way. All three candidates are essentially converging on each other with only hours left.

Polling released on Monday showed Romney and Paul battling over the top spot -- the two men were tied for first at about 22 percent in an InsiderAdvantage snap poll conducted New Year's Day with Santorum close behind. Another American Research Group survey showed Romney with a bit more room to breathe: the former governor had a five point lead over Paul and Santorum in data collected from late last week and the holiday weekend. In Public Policy Polling (D) numbers out on Sunday night, all the candidates were within two points, with Romney at 20, Paul at 19 and Santorum at 18.

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BOONE, IOWA -- What do you call a former fire-breathing Republican senator who's made his name with extremist social policy views? A uniter, not a divider.

Rick Santorum himself has been making this case somewhat, pointing to his victories in Pennsylvania as evidence that he can win over Democrats. In his latest ads, he promises that he's the most electable candidate in the race. At a Pizza Ranch here Monday, I spoke to a Santorum supporter and local tea party activist who said it's Santorum's ability to compromise that makes him the best candidate in the race.

It's a weird thing to hear in this purity-driven primary, and an even weirder thing to hear from a tea partier, whose natural enemy is compromise. But it's maybe a sign that Santorum's electability argument is connecting and could carry him ahead should he pull off the upset in Iowa.

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It may feel like we've had the 2012 election already, but actually it hasn't even really begun! Luckily that's all about to change within the space of a day, as Iowa Republicans go to their caucuses and cast the first real votes in the cycle. And the TV networks could barely restrain their anticipation.

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Mitt Romney revved up a packed crowd of hundreds of supporters in Marion Iowa with an optimistic expectation of tomorrow’s caucus results, via Buzzfeed:



We're going to win this thing with all of our passion and strength and do everything we can to get this campaign on the right track to go across the nation.

Newt Gingrich wants to set the record straight on Freddie Mac. After being slammed by the other candidates for a consulting gig he had with Freddie Mac, and the large fees he took from it, Newt plans to run an ad in New Hampshire and South Carolina to prove his opposition to the GSE’s bailout.

Via ABC, the candidate said:



“We have a great story” to tell about Freddie Mac “and will probably run an ad by the time we get to New Hampshire or South Carolina,” Gingrich said.

Gaffe-prone Rick Perry has done it again. On the trail in Iowa Monday, Rick Perry put the infamous Bridge to Nowhere in the wrong state, referring to the “the Bridge to Nowhere in Arizona.” Of course, the bridge was in Alaska — Sarah Palin’s state — not John McCain’s native state (h/t Huffington Post).

Tea Party super star, immigration firebrand and influential Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King will not be endorsing anyone before tomorrow’s caucuses, he tweeted Monday.

The Iowa caucuses are in less than 24 hours and Mitt Romney is edging out a lead at exactly the right time, polling neck and neck with Ron Paul for first place in a state where even a top three finish might be enough to put him on a glide path toward the nomination. But you wouldn't know it from the other campaigns' latest attacks: Rick Perry is bashing Rick Santorum. Michele Bachmann is attacking Paul. Paul is bashing Newt Gingrich. And none of their ads go after Romney particularly hard.

The current free-for-all is only the latest lucky break for Romney, whose rivals have been unable to unite against the frontrunner since the earliest days of the campaign. And it's a maddening source of frustration for his Republican and Democratic opponents alike, who complain he's getting an easy ride to the nomination as a result.

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A Pizza Ranch manager in Boone, Iowa, has renamed the restaurant’s chicken salad “Santorum Salad,” after Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

Photo via TPM’s Evan McMorris-Santoro.

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