For months it seemed like Mitt Romney would stay out of Iowa this time, foregoing the state that handed him a bitter defeat in 2008 when he ran for president the first time. We have reached the end of the line for that theory, as Romney engages the Hawkeye State full steam ahead.
There have been conflicting signs that this was going to happen. Just a couple weeks ago, Romney himself was downplaying his chances in the caucuses. According to a report from a Florida fundraiser, “Romney predicted a Tea Party favorite would win Iowa and that he would take New Hampshire…Romney told the crowd he would seal the nomination by then winning Florida’s Republican contest.”
But a change to that strategy appeared to be inadvertently revealed by Romney spokesperson Gail Gitcho on a conference call last week. From Amanda Terkel:
As for a strategy, our strategy is to win there,” she continued, in an apparent slip that contradicted previous statements from the campaign. “Our strategy is to — we’re going to get people out to the caucuses,” she quickly added.
That new plan is now in motion. Romney is up with a television ad in Iowa today and the Washington Post reports one of his top surrogates — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) — is hitting Iowa next week to whip up support for Romney.
This is not what staying away from Iowa looks like. Jon Huntsman, who really is skipping Iowa, is so far removed from the goings on in the state that he wasn’t invited to the upcoming Iowa debates.
Can Romney win in Iowa? Looks like we’re going to find out. The situation is much different this time than in 2008, where Romney’s massive efforts in Iowa were dashed when social conservatives united behind Mike Huckabee. This time, social conservatives don’t know what they’re doing, though some do say they’re hoping to stop Romney.
The surging Newt Gingrich is getting his Iowa machine up and running, which could mean more trouble for Romney. But one thing seems clear: the days of Romney keeping Iowa at arm’s length are over, setting the stage for a caucus battle that could be more important to the final result of the nomination race than it would have been had Romney stayed away.