Mitt Romney kicks off day-long bus tour of Iowa day before Tuesday caucus vote

Published: Monday, Jan. 2 2012 9:23 p.m. MST

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to a packed room during a campaign appearance at the Bayliss Park Hall Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Chris Carlson, Associated Press

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DAVENPORT, Iowa — Steven Garrison, out of work for more than a year after losing his job as a financial analyst, appreciated hearing GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's pledge Monday to "get America working again."

Standing with his three young songs, Garrison called Romney's early morning speech at the Mississippi Valley Fair grounds "very timely. It was very poignant. … I think he can create the climate where people like me no longer run into roadblocks."

The family traveled more than an hour from Burlington for the chance to catch Romney's first stop on a more than 700-mile bus tour of the state on the final day before Tuesday's caucus votes.

Romney will hold a final rally Tuesday morning at the Temple for Performing Arts in downtown Des Moines and is holding what supporters hope will be a victory party at the nearby Hotel Fort Des Moines. 

Garrison said he's wanted to see Romney in the White House ever since visiting Salt Lake City in 2002 and seeing firsthand Romney's success in turning around the troubled Winter Olympics.

Although the family shares Romney's Mormon faith, Garrison said it's Romney's experience, not his religion, that earned his vote.

"Whether he was a member of our church, a Baptist, a Muslim, I wouldn't care," Garrison said. "His resume won me over."

Romney told the several hundred people gathered in a hall located on the Davenport fairgroundsl that unemployment "is a traumatic experience … people sometimes lose their faith and become depressed."

He said the county hasn't "had a presidency with so many jobs lost" since Herbert Hoover and laid out his plan to create jobs by cutting spending, eliminating government regulations, developing energy resources and getting tough on trading partners like China.

The crowd in the politically moderate Quad Cities area also heard from South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who said President Barack Obama may have inherited a bad economy but "his policies have made matters worse, much worse."

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is also participating in the day-long tour, which saw both the size of the crowds and the level of enthusiasm for Romney increase at each of the four stops.

Iowa's caucus vote Tuesday is, in effect, only a preference poll. Iowa's Republicans won't actually elect delegates to the party's national convention until they hold their state convention later this year.

But the caucus vote is closely watched as the nation's first test of presidential contenders and often weeds out the weakest candidates. Polls suggest the race is now between Romney, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Gov. Rick Santorum.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich continues to lose support, according to the polls, while Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are trailing far behind the frontrunners. 

The other candidate in the race with Utah ties, former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., is skipping the caucus vote to focus on the next presidential contest, New Hampshire's Jan. 10 primary.

Romney's campaign has been careful throughout the 2012 nomination race to temper expectations in Iowa and Monday was no exception.

"We feel pretty confident," Romney senior advisor Eric Fehrnstrom said. "I can't predict where Mitt Romney will finish but I can predict that at the end of the day, he'll be the Republican nominee."

Fehrnstrom said he was confident saying Romney will be on the November ballot because the primary process "is not just one single contest" but a series of races that won't end until Utah Republicans vote in late June. "We have the strongest organization that will enable Mitt Romney to go that long distance."

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