Romney Returns: It's not often Iowans see Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney in person in 2011. In fact, I don't think Romney has come to the metro at all since the Republican Party of Iowa's Straw Poll in Ames in August. He did take trips to western and eastern Iowa. But it appears that is about to change. This morning, Romney spoke before several hundred employees at Nationwide Insurance in downtown Des Moines. It's just one step of what's been a slow buildup to Romney's Iowa campaign. Last week, the campaign, without any fanfare, opened its Iowa headquarters in an abandoned Blockbuster Video west of downtown. The campaign on Monday announced Romney would come for the Nationwide visit Wednesday morning. Then this morning, the campaign announced South Dakota Senator John Thune would join Romney and endorse him. Later this morning, we received another release that said Romney would hold a "teletown hall" with Iowans this afternoon. But now there's more.
Mary Kramer is a former state senate president and U.S. Ambassador to Barbados. She also serves as an adviser to Romney's campaign in Iowa. Kramer told me, "I think we'll see lots of activity, not only from Governor Romney, but his family members, other people who support him that Iowans will recognize and appreciate."
I asked her, "So we will see more and more of the campaign in December?" Kramer responded, "Correct. Yes, we will."
Kramer told me Iowa visits will include Romney's wife and sons (she specifically mentioned Josh) and surrogates like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Minnesota Governor (and former presidential candidate) Tim Pawlenty.
She also talked about whether it's too late for Romney to make this strong play in the state. She doesn't think so. She said it helps because Romney met so many people last cycle. Kramer said, "I think strategically Governor Romney felt he and his supporters are well-acquainted. We learn to know each other and trust each other in the last go-around. We feel comfortable with that."
But Kramer added that Romney knows he needs to expand the base. She said, "I feel it's very important for him to connect with a very broad group of people, to connect with them because his message is so important, his message about jobs." Hence the visit before insurance employees in Des Moines today.
But what about the Iowans who have grow accustomed to having that face-to-face time each cycle with their candidates? Kramer believes that handshake they had with Romney last time will carry over into this campaign. She feels Iowans are understanding people. She said, "I'm hoping Iowans understand it's important to have a winning strategy that goes, not only here, but past here. And I think we're sophisticated enough as politicians and citizens to get that strategy."
Kramer also discounted talk that Romney doesn't have the organization to do well in the caucuses (She didn't say, by the way, he would win Iowa. She wants him to win, of course, but couldn't say he actually will). She maintains the organization is here, partly because of efforts by staff and volunteers this time, and also because of the previous level of support Romney had during his last run. She also disagrees with talk of any sort of "stealth" organization in Iowa. While she acknowledges Romney himself hasn't been here nearly as much as the last cycle, the actual work of organizing has been going on for months. And she feels that will only intensify in the campaign's final five weeks.