Mitt Romney has a 59-point economic plan. Newt Gingrich promises “very big solutions.” But to a large, and increasing, extent, issues aren’t driving the fight for the Republican presidential nomination.

With Iowans about to cast the first votes of 2012, issues have declined in importance as a factor in the campaign, according to a recent national opinion survey of Republicans. Instead, the GOP contest reflects an intensifying search by voters for the candidate they believe has the strongest chance of unseating President Obama next November.

That’s a departure from some past elections, when policy positions split the party.