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Sen. Grassley would be 'surprised' if there's a clear winner in Iowa

"It's still a very fluid situation. It does seem like Mitt Romney is solidifying to some extent," Grassley said on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" Friday. "I would be surprised if next Jan. 3, when we have our caucuses, that there's going to be a clear winner. I'd be very surprised."

The Iowa senator said he thinks that several of the candidates will get around 20 percent of the vote each.

"If Mitt Romney's the winner, we're picking the president. If there's not a clear winner, and I don't think there will be, we're winnowing the field," said Grassley on MSNBC later Friday morning.

Grassley told C-SPAN that while it's unusual for him, he has decided not to endorse a candidate this year because he feels satisfied there are enough contenders that would make a "good president" and could beat President Obama in a general election.

The only candidate Grassley said he takes issue with is Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

"One aspect of one candidate is about the only one where I find total disagreement, and that would be the foreign policy — or lack of foreign policy — of Ron Paul," said Grassley.

He was critical of Paul's foreign policy positions, but said he "doesn't find fault" with his domestic policies.

Paul, who advocates a shrinking U.S. presence abroad, has said that his views on foreign policy are linked with his economic and domestic positions and should not be considered separate platforms.

Romney and Paul are currently leading the GOP field in Iowa with 23 percent and 21 percent, respectively, according to a new poll released Friday by NBC News-Marist.

The second tier of candidates, however, led by Rick Santorum and Rick Perry, are within striking distance of the front-runners. Santorum came in third at 15 percent, followed by Perry at 14 percent.

Grassley specifically praised Santorum. He said that unlike the other leading contenders, who have focused primarily on economic issues, Santorum has managed to promote a comprehensive policy platform.

"I compliment Sen. Santorum for emphasizing foreign policies and also I compliment him for having a balance between domestic, economic issues, social issues and foreign policy," Grassley said.

He said voters in his state are primarily looking to elect a Republican nominee that has viable solutions to the economic strife facing the country and a candidate that can win in a general election.

While analyzing the Iowa contest, he noted that social issues have not played as a large a role this year as in past caucuses. Support among social conservatives was crucial to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's 2008 victory in Iowa, but this cycle support has been divided among candidates like Santorum, Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and Perry.

"Considering the economy is in such bad shape and considering the fact that most Republicans think President Obama's not doing as well as he could, I'm not surprised that social issues have been put to the background and these other issues foremost," he said. "That's one of the reasons that we have not had the social conservatives really coalescing around one candidate."

—Alicia M. Cohn contributed to this report.