Mitt Romney appeared to predict here tonight that he’s going to win the Iowa caucuses and roll on to win the Republican nomination.
“You guys, I need you tomorrow night,” he told more than 600 people packed into an asphalt company’s truck garage. “I need every single vote in this room, and I need you to get a couple of other votes in your neighborhood, get them to caucus. I need a great showing here in Cedar Rapids. We’re going to win this thing with all our passion and strength and do everything we can to get this campaign on the right track to go across the nation and to pick up the states and to get the ballots I need and the votes I need to become our nominee. That’s what we’re going to get, with your help.”
Up next, the inevitable clarification:
Campaign aides later said that Romney meant he was going to win the nomination, not necessarily the caucuses. Romney’s campaign has worked for months to keep expectations down, trying to prevent a repeat of the 2008 campaign, in which he was favored but came in a disappointing second place in the caucuses. But the candidate has been leading recent polls, and he was feeling his oats tonight in front of an enthusiastic crowd that clapped and whistled after several lines of his stump speech.
As I wrote in my omnibus preview post, Romney has ample reason to feel fairly satisfied about his position, but predicting a win is bold -- especially when four in ten likely Iowa caucus-goers still haven't settled on a final choice. Iowans will likely react to this comment in one of three ways: (1) They'll view Romney's brief departure from his supremely disciplined messaging as refreshing, (2) they'll see the remark as irritating, Newtesque presumptuousness, or (3) they'll write it off as relatively harmless rah-rah rhetoric from a candidate trying to fire up his supporters on election eve. I suspect most people will pick door number three, but if Team Mitt doesn't take the cake tomorrow, don't be surprised to see a rival campaign or two cite these comments to help foster a "Romney's already under-performing" narrative. Meanwhile, national Democrats may agree with Romney's frank assessment; they've deployed top surrogates to the Hawkeye State to "assail" the GOP field, while devoting special attention to the former Massachusetts governor:
Looking ahead to next fall, Democrats in Iowa and beyond sought to weaken Republican Mitt Romney in advance of Tuesday's lead-off presidential caucuses as polls show the former Massachusetts governor amassing support. Democrats dispatched party leaders and surrogates in Iowa on Monday to assail the Republican field while paying close attention to Romney, who has led in national polls and could use Iowa and other early states as a springboard to secure the Republican nomination. Democrats have tried to portray Romney as lacking any core convictions while raising questions about his business background, which the former governor has offered as a chief reason to send him to the White House.