DAVENPORT, Iowa — As far as Mitt Romney's concerned, Newt Gingrich's campaign might as well be a 1950s sitcom.
"I Love Lucy," specifically.
Romney spent most of Tuesday ignoring his Republican rival, attacking President Barack Obama and making his final pitch to Iowa voters ahead of a three-day bus tour in the last days before the Jan. 3 caucuses. But he jabbed at Gingrich during a stop in New Hampshire, knocking the former House speaker for likening his trouble getting onto Virginia's primary ballot to attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
"I think he compared that to ... what was it, Pearl Harbor? I think it's more like Lucille Ball at the chocolate factory," Romney said, referring to the episode where the homemaker Lucy switches places with her husband for a day and is humorously overwhelmed as chocolates fly past her on an assembly line. "You've got to get it organized."
Republican Party officials in Virginia announced over the weekend that Gingrich had failed to submit enough signatures to get on the ballot for the state's March 6 primary. In a post on Facebook, campaign manager Michael Krull compared the situation to the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
The joke was the only time all day that Romney directly acknowledged his GOP rivals. Instead, he delivered a version of his closing argument speech railing against Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Biden criticized Romney in an opinion piece in the Des Moines Register on Friday.
Romney's schedule shows a campaign bent on executing a strategy to do well in Iowa's GOP caucuses. In 2008, a second-place finish here dealt a serious blow to his candidacy. He lost a series of other key early states and dropped out of that race in early February.
Now, Romney's team is focusing on making sure the 25 percent of Iowa caucus-goers who backed him last time will support him again in a week's time. He's spending the next three days on a bus tour of the eastern part of the state, largely in counties where he won in 2008. He'll start in Muscatine and visit Clinton, Iowa City, Cedar Falls, Mason City and Ames before ending the tour Friday in Des Moines.
Ahead of the final push, though, he's starting to sound like he's already won the presidential nomination — and even the Iowa caucuses.
"Mr. Biden, we do care that under your policies more Americans have lost their jobs, more Americans are on food stamps, and more Americans have lost their homes. Blaming others is not a plan to get America working," Romney said in his Tuesday speech. "On Jan. 3, Iowa will start our plan to get America working."
In New Hampshire earlier in the day, it was similar. "I'm not exactly sure how all this is going to work, but I think I'm going to get the nomination if we do our job right," Romney said inside the packed dining room of the Coach Stop restaurant, hours before he arrived in Iowa.
And when his wife, Ann Romney, stood to introduce him here, she was completely certain.
"Hope is on the way," she said, gesturing to her husband beside her. "He's going to win the nomination and he's going to beat Barack Obama."