DUBUQUE, Iowa â€” Mitt Romney struck a classic front-runner pose on Monday, ignoring his rivals for the GOP nomination and arguing that the nationâ€™s future will be imperiled if President Obama is re-elected.
â€œThis is a critical time for us. I donâ€™t want to wake up a year from now and turn on my TV and have it say â€˜President Obama re-elected.â€™ Because I know what that means. It means a weaker America,â€ Romney said, speaking to about 200 people at a sheet metal manufacturer. â€œI want to see a new president take America in a great tradition and a new tradition, one that makes America the best place in the world to be middle-class again, and I will be that president.â€
The swing through eastern Iowa marks Romneyâ€™s fourth visit to the state. Thatâ€™s a small sliver of the amount of time he spent here in his unsuccessful 2008 bid, when he barnstormed Iowa and spent millions here, raising expectations so high that his second-place finish in the caucuses was an embarrassing blow to his campaign.
While Romney has been low-key, his campaign continues quietly to build support here before the first-in-the-nation caucuses, which are less than two months away. It recently hired more paid staff, and on Monday, it collected contact information from all who attended the event.
Romney and beleaguered businessman Herman Cain lead the polls here, and the evangelical voters who dominate the caucuses have yet to coalesce behind a candidate, creating an opening for Romney that many did not believe existed a few months ago, and explains why he appears to be stepping up his efforts here.
Eastern Iowa, which is less rock-ribbed conservative than other parts of the state, was a bright spot for Romney in 2008, which he acknowledged Monday.
â€œYou guys were helpful to me last time around. I expect youâ€™re going to be helpful this time as well,â€ he said. â€œPlanning on it.â€
Romney, wearing a blue plaid shirt and jeans, spoke for less than 20 minutes, and took no questions from either voters or the news media. If elected, he pledged to make government â€œsimpler, smaller and smarterâ€ and to reduce federal spending by $500 billion by the end of his first term.
â€œUnlike a lot of people in Washington, I believe that deficits matter. I believe one of the reasons weâ€™ve had such a hard time getting the economy going again is because of the huge deficits being racked up by this president and politicians in Washington,â€ Romney said.