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Voters head to the caucuses as polls show Romney, Paul, and Santorum in a dead heat.
WASHINGTON – Republican presidential candidates traded barbs Tuesday while polls indicated a tight race as Iowa voters head to the caucuses to choose the first winner of the 2012 GOP nomination battle.
Former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose top spot in polls crashed over the past few weeks as support for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney grew, called Romney a “liar” on CBS’ The Early Show. Gingrich went on to say, “I just think he ought to be honest to the American people and try to win as the real Mitt Romney, not try to invent a poll-driven, consultant-guided version that goes around with talking points,” The New York Times reported.
Responding on Fox News, Romney said “I know that it's always tempting to look for someone else to blame but at some point you’ve got to stop and say ‘what things can I do better?’”
Fox News also reported that Representative Ron Paul was called “dangerous” by Representative Michelle Bachmann, and “disgusting” by former Senator Rick Santorum.
The jabs come as today’s RealClearPolitics average of polls puts Mitt Romney at 22.8 percent, Ron Paul at 21.5 percent, and Rick Santorum at 16.3 percent. Santorum’s poll surge came suddenly after months of lying near the bottom of the pack.
More from GlobalPost: Three-way tie in GOP Iowa caucus race
Each candidate hopes to get a boost from a win in the first voting state. For Romney, who has spent little time in Iowa, a victory would cement his frontrunner status and position him well to take New Hampshire, where he has directed most of his campaigning attention. An upset by Gingrich would demonstrate the resilience of his appeal after he surged and then tumbled in polls. An underdog win by Santorum, who has spent the most time in Iowa, would emphasize the organizational power of the conservative base of the Republican Party. And a win by Paul would likely reorient the primary season debate toward cutting spending and limited government, two of his – and the Tea Party’s – core issues.