AMES, IOWA -- A Des Moines Register poll put Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee ahead longtime Iowa favorite Mitt Romney, but Romney told Iowans he was the best candidate to take both Iowa and New Hampshire Tuesday.
“It’s going to be important that we get a nominee who can play in each of these states and isn’t a one hit wonder,” Romney said. Romney didn’t mention the former Arkansas governor by name, but was likely referring to Huckabee, who is his chief opponent in Iowa and plays guitar in a band called Capital Offense.
The Register poll was released late Monday evening. A CNN Iowa poll released the same day, however, put Romney 3 points ahead of Huckabee. In New Hampshire, The Real Clear Politics poll average only gives Huckabee 10.3 percent, while Romney enjoys a 29.3 percent average, the highest of all the Republican presidential candidates in the Granite State.
“When we started this campaign, in February I guess, we were only supported by a few percentage points of folks here in Iowa and here I am neck and neck running for the top spot,” Romney said at a campaign stop in Pleasant Hill, Iowa. “And in New Hampshire, by the way, I’m also running for top spot. Against someone else. It’s a different lineup in New Hampshire, but I’m going to be strong in each of these states.”
While Romney was aggressively practicing the sort of retail, ?living room? politics Iowans value, Huckabee was planning to leave the Hawkeye state early Wednesday for a West Coast taping of the Jay Leno show.
Romney campaigned through the six different Iowan family homes New Years Day at events called “house party huddles.” The “huddles” were typically hosted by middle to upper class suburban families. One home featured a Reagan portrait on the wall. Another had several framed Bible passages. At one stop, the governor nearly tripped over the family dog that had a flag-themed bandana around its neck.
All houses offered heavy appetizers the kitchen and were outfitted with a microphone sound system for the Governor to use. The crowds ranged roughly from 30-80 supporters at each house and people crammed with reporters and cameramen into hallways, spilled out of dens and sat cross-legged on floors to listen to Romney speak.
The Governor finished the day with an evening speech at the Olde Main restaurant in Ames, Iowa—the city where he overwhelmingly won the GOP’s August 11 straw poll.
At each stop, Romney gave a slightly different variation of a 15 minute speech that emphasized the threat of radical Islam, lower taxes, free market healthcare, a crackdown on illegal immigration and family stability.
Romney’s son Craig, the young father of the Governor’s grandson Parker Mitt Romney joined him at these events. Standing in Iowan living rooms, Craig lightly bragged how much Parker enjoyed shaking hands at campaign events and how proud he was of his father.
The day before Romney stormed Iowa living rooms, Huckabee gave national media a sneak peek look at a negative ad against Romney that Huckabee claimed was too hard-hitting to run—a campaign trick considered “too clever by half” by many reporters in the room.
Romney responded to the Huckabee’s faux ad at an impromptu press conference held in the basement of a family home in Johnston, Iowa.
“It reminds you a bit of a person who would stand up and say ‘I’m not going to call my opponent any names, but here are the names I would call him if I were going to call him names” Romney said. “What he did yesterday didn’t fool the media and it won’t fool the people of Iowa either.”