Thursday will mark Mitt Romney's first visit to Iowa since August. According to his spokesperson, Andrea Saul, the candidate will visit Iowa several more times before the Jan. 3 election. The visits may signal a change in strategy for the Romney campaign, which so far has adopted a long and lean approach to the race in the Hawkeye state.
Now that just 2 percentage points separate Romney from Iowa frontrunner Herman Cain, supporters argue that Mitt should make a play for Iowa. In an interview with MSNBC News, Doug Gross, Romney 2008 state chair said, "He could come out here and campaign aggressively and win in Iowa, beat all expectations, and frankly I think put it all away in the first state."
Gross added, "When you have an unformed field with multiple social conservatives in the race, with a lot of mainstream Republicans and independents looking for that person that can beat Obama and give voice to economic concerns, he is the perfect candidate."
However, at least one political observer cautions that a win in Iowa could create problems for Romney in New Hampshire. Jim Geraghty of the National Review noted, "A review of the recent history of presidential nomination contests suggests that the purpose of the New Hampshire contest is to negate the result of the Iowa contest."
Since 1980, every GOP candidate who took Iowa lost in the Granite State. Geraghty speculates that this correlation follows from the desire of New Hampshire voters to ensure that the presidential race is not decided by the first caucuses in Iowa. Another explanation for this trend is that candidates who commit to winning in Iowa are unable to devote the time and resources necessary to compete with candidates who focus on New Hampshire.
According to Geraghty, if Romney takes Iowa then New Hampshire voters could transfer their support to Jon Huntsman, who has spent considerable time campaigning in the state. From there, South Carolina may rally around the leading non-Mormon candidate, most likely Cain or Gingrich. In this scenario, voters in subsequent states would go to the polls faced with a wide-open field.