JOHNSTON, Iowa With two days left before Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Tuesday he'd still be pleased if he comes in a close second, despite all the time, effort and money he has put in to winning the state.
Speaking to reporters after a brief house party at the home of Don and Julie Cook in Johnston, Iowa, Romney said he's either in first or second place depending on what poll is considered and it's now up to voters.
He said he's prepared to win the "gold or silver" at Thursday's GOP caucuses.
"If I get the silver, I'll be pleased to get one of the top two tickets you get in Iowa," said Romney, who has staked out an early state strategy that requires him to do well in Iowa and New Hampshire in order to gain momentum going into the mammoth 22-state voting on Feb. 5.
After staking a big lead in Iowa, he fell behind Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in recent weeks according to some polls. Now, some surveys showed Romney back in the lead; others, like Monday's Des Moines Register poll, show him trail Huckabee after making gains.
Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, Arizona Sen. John McCain who is not expected to be much of a factor in Iowa has been gaining on Romney's lead, with the primary there a week away on Jan. 8.
Romney indicated Tuesday that the race "is probably not going to be over after New Hampshire either."
That could signal a growing importance for Michigan, where Romney grew up and which has its primary Jan. 15. Even though polls have shown Huckabee leading Romney in Michigan, Romney and McCain have the more solid organizations in Michigan a state McCain won, along with New Hampshire, in 2000.
Should Romney falter in all three, his campaign could be doomed.
If Romney comes in second in the Iowa caucuses, it will be seen as a defeat considering how much money and time he has spent organizing and campaigning in Iowa as well as the fact that his once large lead evaporated.
Still, Romney said the prospect didn't bother him and agreed he is relaxed about the outcome.
"I'm not losing sleep," he said. "Frankly, this is the experience of a lifetime."