ALTOONA, IOWA — The contest to become the 2016 Republican presidential nominee is a jump ball in Iowa, where even with the caucuses more than two years away, potential candidates are making the trek to see and be seen by the voters who will decide the first cut.
Pheasant hunts and dinner soirees have attracted current and former governors and members of Congress who want to be part of the conversation when voters start to think seriously about the next White House occupant.
“The race is wide open and will be for some time,” said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois, who covered Iowa politics for more than three decades. “Caucus-goers understand their choice is important, and they take it seriously.”
Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, returned to Iowa for the first time since the election and delivered the keynote address at the 67th birthday bash for Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad. He teased the audience by saying, “Maybe we should come back and do this more often.”
The remark generated cheers from the estimated 800 people in attendance.
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