Feeling Burned: Mitt Romney made his return to Iowa. It's his first trip to the Des Moines metro in about 7 months. Last year, he came here to sell his book and to help campaign for Terry Branstad's eventual return to the governor's mansion. The event offered a pretty comfortable backdrop for Romney at the State Historical Building in Des Moines. The Greater Des Moines Partnership helped put it on in front of about 200 people. No questions on the social issues, issues Romney struggled with in the past (he has been on both sides of same-sex marriages and abortion questions, which isn't something that's endeared him to some of the social conservatives). The questions submitted by people beforehand covered money matters.
The way it turned out, Romney didn't have to answer too many questions about any topic. His opening comments were probably 20 minutes long or so. The moderator, Lynn Campbell of iowapolitics.com, (now part of The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity) then followed with a handful of questions about where Romney's been for the past 7 months, why he's spending a lot more time in other states like New Hampshire and whether he'll compete in the Republican Party of Iowa's high-profile candidate cattle call, AKA straw poll, in August. The answers to those questions, by the way, in order...working on his book, campaigning differently this time and he's not sure--it'll be up to his political team.
OK, my questions... does Romney really not get involved in making the decision on whether to compete in the straw poll? Does he already know that the answer is no and just doesn't want to tick off Iowa Republicans this early? Does he want to swoop in later and make a late summer surprise entrance to take part in the straw poll? Or will it just depend on which other candidates are in the race and where he stands in the polls then?
Another question...Romney talked about this campaign will be different than 2008 because these are "lean" times. True, they are. VERY lean for a lot of Iowans these days. But when Romney talks about lean times, does it have the same resonance as when Oprah, another mega-richer does? Maybe that's not fair. I don't know. But will Iowans relate to a really rich guy, who is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, when he talks about cutting back on the way he spends money?
Random question...will he ever wear a tie again? I think he has been tie-less in his last 3 Iowa appearances (all after the 2008 election). This reminds me a bit of when Al Gore tried to loosen up his image. Remember when they tried to soften him up with those earth tone suits?
Finally, the whole popcorn incident during Romney's appearance was just bizarre. The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs spokesman Jeff Morgan told me someone Thursday had put leftover popcorn in the microwave to store it overnight so the mice wouldn't get into it (perhaps, that's a whole other matter that may need to be addressed?) and then someone Friday put in leftovers into the microwave to heat up for lunch. Oops! The double-popped popcorn started burning, the smell started filling the air and the fire alarms went off again and again. That sent Romney and the rest of us outside the building. Before we went outside, Romney said he was going to meet with people outside, sign autographs and pose for pictures. He did for about 5 or 10 minutes, then got into an SUV, stopped to talk with former Iowa Governor Bob Ray for a few minutes and then drove off. Before the event I was told he was supposed to talk with local reporters after the Q and A session (this was all before the popcorn fiasco). But we never saw Romney again.
I wonder when he'll return. And how often.
ERIN OFF CAMERA: Gratitude
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