Presidential campaign season heating up - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Presidential campaign season heating up

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BLACK HAWK COUNTY (KWWL) -

Republican presidential prospect Tim Pawlenty is campaigning in eastern and central Iowa on a two-day trip through the first-in-the-nation caucus state.  The former Minnesota governor met with GOP activists in Linn County before heading to a party fundraising dinner in Johnson County.

While Pawlenty hasn't officially thrown his hat into the ring to run for the Republican presidential nomination, two other candidates now have.  Friday, Representative Ron Paul of Texas announced he'll make a third bid for the White House.  And earlier this week, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich made his candidacy official online, with posts on Twitter and Facebook.

With two official campaigns now kicking off, it might be a sign that the political race toward Iowa's all-important caucuses is on. 

The presidential campaigning season is off to a noticeably slower start this year, but with our state's caucuses now just about nine months away and the August straw poll even closer, things are starting to heat up.  And candidates that haven't gotten into the race officially yet, may now be ramping up their efforts to test the waters for a presidential run.

Ron Paul serves Texas in the US House of Representatives.  Newt Gingrich spent decades in the House representing Georgia, serving as the House Speaker for four years during Bill Clinton's presidency.  Now both men are eyeing the White House by making official pledges to run for president in 2012.

"It's starting to get to be the time where people have to commit.  And I think some people, like Mitt Romney especially at least in terms of the state of Iowa, have been holding back to see what Huckabee would do because Huckabee probably has an advantage in the state given the results of the 2008 caucuses," said Donna Hoffman, political science professor at the University of Northern Iowa.

To test the waters, several candidates are making their way through important early primary and caucus states, like Iowa, before officially entering the race. 

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty visited Linn County Friday. 

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has made several stops in the Hawkeye state in recent months.

And fellow Republicans said to be considering a presidential bid, like businessman Herman Cain, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, and Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann were some of the faces at a recent fundraising dinner in Waukee. 

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee made multiple Iowa stops on his latest book tour.

Experts say it's only just the beginning, and more candidates will start swinging through now that Paul and Gingrich are officially in the race.

"Even in cycles past where just one party has had contests, it still proves to be pretty exciting in Iowa in the ability Iowans have to see the candidates, to be able to shake their hand, look them in the eye, and ask them questions, which is what Iowans typically request of their presidential candidates if they're going to do well in the caucuses," Hoffman said.

And while much of the attention will continue to be focused on conservatives, you can also expect President Obama to make stops in Iowa in the coming months too, as he looks to secure a second term.

Several of the possible presidential candidates who haven't made a bid for the White House official yet, have formed what's called an exploratory committee so that they can fund raise and make pre-campaign stops to help them decide whether or not to run. 

There are also a few candidates that remain wild cards.  Business mogul Donald Trump, former Alaska governor and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, and Indiana governor Mitch Daniels are reportedly considering presidential runs, too.  Experts say that serious candidates will need to make their candidacy official within the next month or so, if they want to avoid losing ground to their opponents.

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