Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney may be publicly downplaying expectations in the 2012 Iowa caucuses, but don’t be fooled Romney would like to make a strong showing in the Hawkeye State. If Romney wins Iowa and New Hampshire, he could close the door quickly on the rest of the 2012 Republican presidential field. The New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny weighs in:
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, the first Republican nominating contest, on Jan. 3.
The escalation of his effort in Iowa, along with a more aggressive schedule in New Hampshire and an expanding presence in South Carolina, is the strongest indication yet that Mr. Romney is shifting from a defensive, make-no-mistakes crouch to an assertive offensive strategy. If he can take command in the three early-voting states, he could make the nominating battle a swift one.
The campaign is trying to capitalize on what Republicans perceive as a new opening in a state that has spooked Mr. Romney since a $10 million investment in 2008 led to a second-place finish. Yet the structure of this race is different, with the absence of a single alternative candidate and only a hint from opponents of the rigorous voter identification and turnout operations that are a hallmark of the caucuses.