Gingrich takes fire from rivals in debate

Former Speaker defends receiving big fee from Freddie Mac

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Beyond Iowa, Mr. Romney holds a lead in polling in New Hampshire. Mr. Gingrich is ahead in South Carolina polling and holds a lead in the national polls, too — though judging by past primaries, the national numbers can change dramatically after the first couple of states have voted.

And even with the GOP changing its rules this year to award delegates to next summer’s nominating convention proportionally, rather than winner-take-all, the press attention that comes with early wins has an outsized effect.

That makes Iowa and New Hampshire all the more important — and it’s why candidates such as Mr. Perry and Mr. Santorum are focusing so heavily on Iowa. Both men are crisscrossing the state, shaking hands and meeting voters in small-group settings.

Mr. Romney has not spent much time in Iowa, particularly compared to the $10 million effort he made in 2008. But his campaign has said it is competing to win here.

Also on stage Thursday was former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who has largely forgone campaigning in Iowa to focus on New Hampshire’s primary.

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