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Newt Gingrich is down in Iowa, but with voters so unsettled he's not out

Newt Gingrich has dropped like a rock in Iowa polls, but with GOP voters there so unsettled it's premature to count him out. Forty-one percent of likely caucusgoers still might change their minds, a recent poll finds.

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Former Speaker of the House and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich arrives for church on Sunday morning in Des Moines, Iowa.

Evan Vucci/AP

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There’s a festive atmosphere at LJ’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill in Waterloo, Iowa, as Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, wade through the crowd to take their spot for brief remarks and questions.

After all, it’s the evening of New Year’s Day, and the Jan. 3 caucuses are finally at hand. Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker, expresses surprise at the size of the crowd – maybe 200 people packed into the cozy sports bar in the hometown of another GOP presidential competitor, Michele Bachmann.

“Our schedule said there would be 50 people here. You have really disrupted the schedule," Gingrich deadpans.

But Gingrich may in fact have been a tad taken aback, given that the pundits have given him up for politically dead. According to the latest polls, he’s now in fourth place, on the downside of a once-surging campaign – from a commanding lead with 31 percent among likely Iowa caucusgoers three weeks ago to under 14 percent. Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum have passed him by.

Still, Iowans – and a few out-of-towners visiting family for the holidays – flock to see Gingrich. There are Democrats in the house, out for an autograph and a look-see at a historical figure; a college student home on break who plans to caucus with the Republicans on Tuesday, but may still vote for President Obama in November; caucusgoers who may vote for Gingrich or may not; and of course lots of die-hard Gingrich fans sporting Newt stickers and waving signs.

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