PELLA, Iowa — Mitt Romney arrived Wednesday at what he called “a quintessential Iowa setting, with corn and beans around us,” and made clear to his doubters that his path to the Republican presidential nomination would begin here.
“You’ll see me plenty in Iowa,” he told reporters, remarking that it was “joyful” to be back. When a reporter asked whether he thinks he could win the state’s caucuses next year, Romney quipped: “I sure hope so.”
Romney is waging a stealth campaign in Iowa, skipping Saturday’s straw poll and campaigning enough to seem not to be ignoring the state while not appearing to be competing too hard.
This was his second visit here, and his first since officially launching his campaign in June, putting Romney in marked contrast to his Republican rivals, who are barnstorming the Hawkeye State. Some Republicans here have criticized him for ignoring the state, while his visits to New Hampshire, which hosts the nation’s first primary, have become routine.
“I think the people of Iowa are far less concerned with the process of politics and far more concerned with the future of America,” Romney said.
At that, the former Massachusetts governor launched into a blistering critique of President Obama.
“The president is launching his bus tour,” Romney said. “The American people would rather he get back to work doing what he was elected to do.”
Earlier, at a roundtable session with about 15 Iowa business leaders, Romney sought to blame Obama’s policies for the Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the U.S. government’s creditworthiness and the market decline that followed.
“These actions are caused in part by a government that can’t get its act together,” Romney said. “We have a president that has failed to lead in getting America to stop spending more than it takes in.”
Romney said that when he meets small-business owners, they regularly tell him they want the government to “leave us alone. . . . The burden is overwhelming.”
Later, at the news conference, Romney did not directly answer questions about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s anticipated entry into the race, nor about Perry’s record of job creation.
“I think I’m the right guy to be the Republican nominee for president,” Romney said, highlighting his private-sector experience. He said he had unique appeal to “those people who think that the economy is what really is essential in providing a brighter future for our families and preserving our values.”
Romney went so far as to make a prediction:
Obama, he said, “won’t carry Iowa in November 2012. He won’t carry Iowa because Iowans recognize that this presidency has failed. . . . I think I’ll win it if I’m the nominee.”