Facing a Different Crowd in Iowa, Romney Tries Hard to Connect

DAVENPORT, IOWA – Hop-scotching down the eastern side of Iowa, Mitt Romney told Hawkeye residents today that it was up to them to decide what headline will be broadcast a year from today, saying again and again that he’d like the phrase “Mitt is It” to hog the airwaves.

“About a year from now you’re going to wake up and turn on the TV and it’s going to say one of two things,” Romney said. “One, the TV could come on and say President Obama has been re-elected to a second term. And if that’s the case, you know what the next four years look like. They’ll look like the last four years we’ve just endured.”

But Monday’s trip marked just the third trip to the state for Romney since announcing his presidential campaign in June, and reaction from the audience differed greatly from crowds seen at campaign stops in New Hampshire, where Romney has spent the bulk of his time campaigning. Romney has held as many as 45 public events in New Hampshire; today’s Iowa events bring the Hawkeye state’s tally to nine. The Iowa caucus is less than 60 days away.

While crowds in the Granite State often green Romney with cheers of “Mitt! Mitt!” reception in Iowa was more reserved, a feeling Romney seemed to acknowledge when he offered at both events to stick around and spend time with voters.

“I’m happy to stay here and shake some hands and sign some autographs, I want you to get to know me a little better,” said Romney in Davenport.

Several voters who greeted Romney at stops in Dubuque and Davenport urged the presidential candidate to “come back soon” and thanked him for making the trip. Romney returned the thanks, lauding the voters for giving up their Monday night to come hear him speak and acknowledging that the people of Iowa need time to get to know him better.

“Look at you guys tonight, there are things on TV right? Even Monday night football, right?” Romney said. “There are all these things, yet you’re coming out to take a look at someone who is running for president and saying I’m going to take some time to get to know this guy because Iowa is going to have the first say on who our nominee is going to be and that person has to be able to beat Barack Obama and get America right again.”

Romney made two campaign stops, one in Dubuque at Giese Manufacturing, a metal works company, and another at the Iowa American Water depot in Davenport. At both events Romney outlined his fiscal policy that he first delivered last week, drawing the greatest applause when he announced that one of the easiest cuts he’d make to curb federal spending if elected would be Obama’s health care plan.

“The first on my list is easiest to cut,” Romney said. “We’re going to get rid of ‘Obamacare.’”

Yearning to connect with the Iowan voters, so crucial to clinching the nomination, Romney tried hard to relate to the crowd.

“I spent my life doing what you guys are doing,” he said to the crowd in Dubuque that included steel workers and welders. “I spent my life in the private sector. I spent my time in business. And in business, by the way, there’s not questions about whether you’re going to balance the budget.”

Stopping to pose for photos and shake hands with supporters after his speech, Romney was told several times by voters that they had hoped he would discuss his plans to cut funding for Planned Parenthood.

Romney was quick to point out that Planned Parenthood is “on his list” of programs to cut should he win the White House in 2012.

“I’ve been asked that three or four times today,” said Romney, seeming to regret the omission in his speech to a state so full of conservatives.

While aides tried to usher him out of the manufacturing plant in Dubuque, which had cut Romney’s campaign logo into an eight-foot by five-foot sheet of steel that hung behind Romney as he spoke, the candidate made the point again that he didn’t want to leave until he “shook hands with the folks who came to see him.”

Romney told several voters that he hoped they’d caucus for him in January.

The campaign said that Romney’s next trip to Iowa has not yet been scheduled but Romney himself alluded to coming back next month for a debate. The next debate scheduled for Iowa is Dec. 10.

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