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IOWA

Skeleton team leaves Gingrich few choices

DES MOINES — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has little choice but to rely on momentum to carry him to victory in the Iowa caucuses.

He has a skeleton campaign organization in a state where successful caucus candidates typically have had well-built machines aimed at turning out supporters. To build a stronger operation with less than three weeks until the leadoff 2012 contest, he has to scramble.

The former House speaker is hoping the typical rules don’t apply to him in a campaign that already has been far from typical.

“You’re not going to have a successful campaign in the caucuses on organization alone,” said John Stineman, an uncommitted Iowa Republican who ran Steve Forbes’ 2000 caucus campaign. “You have to have some heat. Newt’s getting hot at the right time. It’s a matter of whether he can sustain the heat.”

Getting a winning share of support from caucus goers in 1,774 precinct-level party meetings across the state on a cold, early January night requires some level of coordination, such as nailing down supporters in each of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Mr. Gingrich, whose mass staff departures in June stunted his Iowa campaign, is trying to cobble together his Iowa team using emerging social media methods and time-tested grass-roots work.

He has just nine staffers in Iowa, fewer than most of his rivals. He opened his campaign office just two weeks ago, while others have had state headquarters for months.

HOUSE

GOP lawmakers critical of high-speed-rail project

Republican lawmakers are casting doubts on the viability of California’s high-speed-rail project and suggesting they’re ready to halt federal funding to build the proposed 800-mile line.

A House panel held a hearing Thursday on the viability of the project, which has more than doubled in cost to $98.5 billion. GOP Rep. John L. Mica of Florida, the panel’s chairman, described the project as “imploding.” Others called it a boondoggle.

But Democratic lawmakers said the state’s transportation network is overwhelmed and alternatives are needed to keep the state economically competitive.

Democratic Rep. Jim Costa of California said that with low interest rates and inflation, now is the perfect time to invest heavily in the high-speed rail line.

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