wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost

Can Mitt Romney afford to skip Iowa?

at 06:30 AM ET, 10/27/2011

Mitt Romney holds a small lead in Iowa in a new poll.

Which begs the question: At what point is he simply required to put his best foot forward in the Hawkeye State?
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney speaks in Redmond, Wash., earlier this month. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

The CNN/TIME Magazine poll shows Romney with a statistically insignificant lead on businessman Herman Cain, 24 percent to 21 percent, and is one of two major polls this month to show Romney with a small lead in Iowa. (The other being an NBC/Marist College poll from early in the month, before Cain really picked up steam.)

Despite this, Romney has visited the state only three times this year and continues to dance around the concept of running a full-throated campaign in it. He skipped the Ames Straw Poll two months ago and, most recently, became the only major GOP presidential candidate who hasn’t sworn off Iowa (read: Jon Huntsman) to skip the state GOP’s Ronald Reagan Dinner.

Romney’s campaign is smartly lowering expectations in a state that will be tougher than the others for him and that he doesn’t necessarily need; after all, the CNN poll shows he’s got a great chance at winning basically any of the early states (he leads in all of them), and his chances are especially good in New Hampshire and Nevada, the latter which CNN didn’t poll but has shown large leads for Romney.
(Data from: CNN/Opinion Research polls)

But at some point, Romney’s prospects in Iowa might look too good for him to simply take a pass — not so much because he’ll be tempted to try and win, but because the court of public opinion will demand that he give it a shot.

It’s one thing for a leading candidate to skip a state in the name of focusing on another; it’s quite another for that candidate to skip a state in which polling has shown him or her to be the favorite with just two months to go.

Romney’s opponents say skipping such a state would suggest his campaign is afraid of showing weakness.

“When you are leading in the polls in Iowa, it’s not credible to say you are not really going to try to win the state. Who would buy that?” said Republican National Committeeman Henry Barbour, who is supporting Texas Gov. Rick Perry. “And who wants to be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat?”

Romney supporters have long said that he will be in Iowa.

“He’s been in Iowa campaigning, and he’ll be back again several times before the caucus,” said former Romney aide Kevin Madden. “We have three debates alone on the calendar for Iowa in the month of December.”

The question, though, is how hard he runs theire.

Other recent polling has shown Cain with a more substantial lead in Iowa, but if the CNN poll is an indication that Cain’s campaign has stumbled underneath the media spotlight (it shows him also losing ground in New Hampshire and Florida), then Romney could very well enter the home stretch in Iowa as the clear frontrunner.

In which case he may not be able to de-emphasize the state as much as he is right now.

‘Chaos’ in Cain campaign: Former aides to Cain say his campaign is marked by chaos, including ignoring the small states and failing to forge bonds with donors, the New York Times reports.

The story confirms suspicions about a campaign that isn’t being run professionally and could cost Cain, despite his momentum, according to supporters.

Perhaps most interesting: a memo obtained by the Times says aides are not to speak to Cain unless spoken to.

NRCC adds 12 to Young Guns program: The National Republican Congressional Committee is highlighting a dozen more top recruits by adding them to the committee’s Young Guns program.

The list of candidates, which will be announced today, are all being added to the first of the program’s three stages: “on the radar.”

They are: Travis Grantham (AZ-6), Kim Vann (CA-3), David Valadao (CA-21), Gary DeLong (CA-47), Ilario Pantano (NC-7), David Rouzer (NC-7), Jeff Hunt (NC-11), Mark Meadows (NC-11), Thad Viers (SC-7), Dianne Costa (TX-25), Dave Garrison (TX-25) and John Koster (WA-02).

Pantano and Koster are repeat candidates running against Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) and Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), respectively; Vann is challenging Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.); DeLong is running in a wide-open Los Angeles-area contest that features two Democratic incumbents; and Hunt and Meadows are running against Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.).

The rest of the candidates are running for open seats.

The 12 candidates join 24 others who have already been named to the program. The full list is here.

Americans increasingly clinging to guns: Maybe President Obama had a point about Americans clinging to guns?

A new Gallup poll shows gun ownership reaching its highest level in 18 years, with 47 percent of people saying they have a gun somewhere on their property.

Interestingly, even 40 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners say they have a gun — the highest in at least the last decade.

Fixbits:

Cain is coming to Washington to meet with the Georgia GOP delegation.

Chelsea Clinton for Congress? Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) says she’s not paving the way.

Former Huckabee Iowa campaign manager Eric Woolson will lead Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-Minn.) efforts in the state.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) says Obama’s infrastructure proposal won’t pass in the Senate.

Cain says his campaign is divinely inspired.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) is moving to impeach the state’s bipartisan redistricting commission, which drafted a map that Republicans say favors Democrats.

Must-reads:

Using the word ‘Obamacare’ for political gain” — Jonathan Strong, Roll Call

Our un-presidential debates” — Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal

Rubio on national ticket could be risky bet for GOP” — Peter Wallsten, Washington Post

Eight Takeaways From Early-State Presidential Primary Polls” — Ronald Brownstein, National Journal

Black support of Obama holds” — Helene Cooper, New York Times

Read more on PostPolitics.com

TSA screener removed for lewd note

Gay troops to challenge DOMA

Obama unveils student loan relief plan

FACT CHECKER: Biden’s shocking job-loss figures

 
Read what others are saying