Mitt Romney sets sights on Iowa — finally

Published: Monday, Nov. 21 2011 12:24 p.m. MST

Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, Pool

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Mitt Romney spent $10 million on Iowa in 2008, only to finish second to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. In many ways, Romney's campaign never recovered from that deflating defeat. Against that backdrop, political pundits have long wondered whether Romney would actively contest Iowa in 2012 — and thereby run the risk of another disappointment like 2008.

Well, we now have our answer.

The New York Times detailed over the weekend that Team Romney is finally ready to enter the Iowa fray in anticipation of the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses on Jan. 3. Specifically, the campaign will soon unleash an onslaught of television ads and volunteers in the Hawkeye State.

"Mitt Romney's Iowa campaign headquarters is opening for business. Mr. Romney, who has been cautiously calibrating expectations about his chances in a state full of social conservatives, is now playing to win the Iowa caucuses. Television commercials are on the way, volunteers are arriving and a stealth operation is ready to burst into view in the weeks leading up to the caucuses."

Romney netted 25 percent of Iowa's caucus delegates in finishing second to Huckabee in 2008. However, with a GOP field that appears more splintered in 2012 than it did during the previous presidential election cycle, some political experts believe that netting the same 25 percent of Iowa's caucus delegates could be enough for Romney to finish first this time around.

Despite his renewed focus on Iowa and even though six significant Republican presidential candidates attended the event, Romney eschewed Saturday's Iowa Family Forum. (Jon Huntsman Jr., whose campaign is now fully focused on New Hampshire, was the only other notable absence.) But as the Washington Post reported last week on the eve of the Iowa Family Forum, Romney was never viewed as anything approaching a likely attendee given his adverse history with the event's organizer.

"(Bob) Vander Plaats now runs a social conservative group called the Family Leader, which will host the Saturday event. … Vander Plaats, a longtime social conservative activist here, tapped into his own network of pastors and evangelicals as Huckabee's Iowa campaign chairman (in 2008)."

EMAIL: jaskar@desnews.com

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