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Aug 7, 2011 4:02 PM by Matt Stafford

Iowa focal point for potential shifts in GOP race

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Three important markers in the coming days could fundamentally alter the 2012 Republican presidential campaign, including whether Texas Gov. Rick Perry enters the race.

A nationally televised debate and a straw poll in Iowa will give declared candidates their last chances to stand out before Perry announces whether he will run.

Perry would potentially crowd candidates who have been building campaigns in Iowa this summer, including former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

But recent job growth in Texas could also allow Perry to pose a serious challenge to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's claim as the candidate most focused on jobs. Perry aides say they expect the Texas governor to campaign aggressively in Iowa and focus on jobs if he does enter the race.

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