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Republicans Warn Romney: Don’t Skip Iowa PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 03 June 2011 14:03

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney officially kicked off his 2012 campaign for president Thursday with a speech at a windy farm in New Hampshire, a day after a new poll showed that he is still the candidate to beat in Iowa.

But Iowa Republicans on Thursday cautioned Romney not to skip the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

“I think that this is a very wide-open race,” said state Representative Steven Lukan (R-New Vienna). “I think Iowa Republicans look at their candidates extremely hard. This is not a state where rock stars exist. Iowans want to see you in the pancake house, and they want to see you at the VFW steak fry. You have to engage them one-on-one. ... I think anybody that chooses to skip Iowa does so at their own peril.”

Romney made his first visit of the year to Iowa this past Friday. He promised at a forum co-sponsored by IowaPolitics.com that he’ll be in Iowa often, but he declined to commit to participating in the August 13 Iowa Straw Poll, the first test of a candidate’s organizational strength.

David Kochel, Romney’s Iowa advisor, said Thursday that Romney does not have an Iowa event scheduled in the near future. He said Iowans can expect to see Romney several times during this election cycle, but Romney’s schedule is heavily weighted toward fundraising during the early months of the campaign.

Steve Scheffler, a Republican National Committee member from West Des Moines, emphasized that face time in Iowa is critical to Romney’s success, especially now that potential candidates such as Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Mike Huckabee, and Donald Trump are out of the race.

“I think he needs to come to Iowa and play in the caucuses and the straw poll and the debates,” Scheffler said. “Bypassing any one of those would not be good. I don’t think he should have to think about coming to Iowa. He does need, in my view, to participate in the August 11 debate and August 13 straw poll.”

Romney used his campaign kickoff speech Thursday to emphasize his leadership experience as governor, in business, and in helping to put the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games back on track. He contrasted that with the current president, saying that Americans gave someone new a chance to lead the country and “Barack Obama has failed America.” He also emphasized the need to create jobs.

“The economy is in crisis today,” he said. “Unless we change course, it will be a crisis for all of us tomorrow.”

He then declared: “I’m Mitt Romney. I believe in America. And I’m running for president of the United States.”

The announcement came a day after a new poll showed Romney leading the field of 2012 presidential candidates in Iowa.

The survey (IowaPolitics.com/1009/Iowa_GOP_Poll.pdf) released Wednesday by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling company, showed Romney leading with 21 percent, followed by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain with 15 percent. Next came former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 12 percent, Minnesota U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann with 11 percent, Pawlenty with 10 percent, Texas U.S. Representative Ron Paul with 8 percent, and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman with almost no support.

The poll of 481 likely Iowa Republican primary voters was taken May 27 through 30 and had a margin of error of 4.5 percent. The poll was not paid for or authorized by any campaign or political organization.

What the poll didn’t show is that even some past Iowa supporters of Romney haven’t decided whether they will support him this time around.

State Representative Stewart Iverson (R-Clarion) a former Iowa Senate majority leader and former chair of the Republican Party of Iowa, backed Romney in 2008 but said he’s still making up his mind on whom he will support in 2012.

“I think that he is a known quantity. I think he’s done many good things. Some of the things that people question him about, I think, is fair,” Iverson said of Romney. “He’s got a lot of good qualities on the economy. He’s created jobs. He’s turned companies around. He turned the Olympics around. Those are qualities that we need to see in the Oval Office, because if you don’t understand how government works, if you don’t understand how to make jobs, we’ve got a real problem.”

But Iverson said he hasn’t made up his mind yet, because many qualified people are in the field of potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates. He also expressed reservations about Romney’s health-care law in Massachusetts that some have compared to Obama’s federal health-care-reform law: “I think that’s one hurdle, a big hurdle that he has to get over with many folks.”

In his speech Thursday, Romney specifically called for the “complete repeal of Obamacare.” That drew criticism from Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky.

“Romney fails to embrace his biggest accomplishment in passing Massachusetts health-care reform and tries to claim the mantel of ‘job creator’ despite the fact that he slashed jobs as a businessman and led Massachusetts to a 47th out of 50 ranking in job-creation as governor,” Dvorsky said.

Dvorsky also criticized Romney for flip-flopping on other issues ranging from U.S. House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s budget, the Recovery Act, and social issues such as gay marriage and abortion. She also criticized him for not committing to compete in the Ames straw poll, despite being the highest-polling and best-funded candidate in the race.

But Iverson said Romney remains an attractive candidate among Republicans.

“He spent an enormous amount of time in Iowa last time. A lot of people already know him,” Iverson said. “Does he have to spend as much time here as he did four years ago? No, I don’t think so. It’s not like he has to start over again.”

This article was produced by IowaPolitics.com. For more stories on Iowa politics, visit RCReader.com/y/iapolitics.

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