Mitt Romney's strategy so far has been to basically avoid Iowa and not take part in January's caucuses. That may be about to change.
In 2008, Romney spent $10 million in Iowa only to finish second behind Mike Huckabee. Time's Alex Altman reports that Romney's campaign may be about to allocate big money and resources to the state in an effort to land an early knockout punch by winning both Iowa and New Hampshire.
Several Iowa Republicans say they expect Romney’s camp to ramp up their efforts in the Hawkeye State soon, arguing that the rewards would be vast enough to warrant the risks. Despite his parsimonious approach to the state so far — Romney has hired five paid staffers, opened no discrete offices and shelled out no money on advertising — a wave of good fortune has swept the state to within his grasp. Rivals that once seemed positioned to mount strong challenges have withered, a bevy of social-conservative candidates could divvy up the Evangelical vote, and an influx of more moderate caucus-goers driven by economic anxiety could tip the state to Romney, who has made economic growth and alleviating unemployment the crux of his message. A win in Iowa, coupled with a likely victory in his New Hampshire backyard a week later, Romney could lock up the nomination fight early.
The flip side, of course, is that Romney could inflate expectations by lavishing time and money on Iowa, only to lose again and wound his campaign unnecessarily. But with the caucuses just 70 days away and Romney running second in state horserace polls behind only Herman Cain’s invisible bandwagon, the time to play coy has ended. “He can’t be a little bit pregnant when it comes to the Iowa caucus at this point,” says Doug Gross, a Des Moines lawyer who chaired Romney’s Iowa campaign in 2008 but is unaffiliated this cycle. “Now what he has to do is reach out and touch enough of his supporters so that they show up. That’s going to require personal engagement by the candidate.”
Experts say this time around, Romney's efforts in Iowa could cost just a fraction of what he spent in 2008, perhaps just $1 million. That might be enough of an incentive for him to compete in a state that slipped through his grasp last time around.