PETERBOROUGH, N.H. – The golden rule of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign just might be this: “confidentiality of strategy.”

Romney’s advisers sometimes marvel at how intimately involved the candidate is in charting out his path to the Republican presidential nomination. But ask the former Massachusetts governor what his strategy is and he won’t say.

Is Romney competing to win in Iowa, whose Jan. 3 caucuses kick off the nominating contest? He says he simply wants to do “very well.”

When will he begin airing television advertisements? He says only, “we’re getting closer now.”

How much money is he budgeting to spend on the early voting states? Again, Romney demurs: “That’s another item I’m not going to tell anybody.”

During a news conference here Saturday night following a town hall meeting, Romney dodged questions about his campaign strategy, adopting what he characterized as one of the virtues of the business world: “confidentiality of strategy.”

“It will come as no surprise to you that in the business world, and in the political world, that we tend not to reveal our strategy to our competitors, so you’ll wait and see what we’ll do,” Romney said.

The former Massachusetts governor is considered the establishment front-runner in this, his second presidential campaign, and all year he has pursued a methodical strategy and paced himself for start of voting. With that moment drawing near, every move Romney and his campaign makes is being interpreted for clues about his strategy.

The opening of his Iowa headquarters in Des Moines, coupled with the sighting there earlier this month of professional film crews presumably shooting footage for his ads and other signals, led The New York Times to report Saturday night that Romney was escalating his efforts there and “playing to win quickly.”

Romney’s aides did not dispute details of the report, but they, and the candidate himself, said his increased presence in Iowa does not constitute a change in campaign strategy.

“I’ve said from the very beginning that we intend to play in Iowa, that I want to do very well there,” Romney told reporters here. “You can also expect that as we get closer to the caucuses and to the primaries, you’ll see us visiting those early states more, spending more money there, turning out more volunteers and being more active because as we get closer to the election, not surprisingly, we want to draw people to the polls that support us.”

Asked when he might begin airing television commercials, Romney wouldn’t say.

“I don’t want to tell my competitors. I’d tell you if you won’t tell anybody,” Romney said, laughing.

Romney added: “What I want to do is keep until the last possible moment what our plans are, but you can expect that we’re getting closer now, and as we get closer we will go up on the air. This is a calculation of how much money we have to spend and when is the right time to go up, but I wouldn’t expect to be waiting weeks and weeks. It’s got to come relatively soon, and it’ll happen in the early primary states.”

This much was clear to anyone who attended Romney’s town hall meeting. Bright lights illuminated the storybook Peterborough Town House in this picturesque New England town that was a model for Thornton Wilder’s play, “Our Town.”

Romney’s “Cut the Spending” banner was aligned just right, Glenn Miller swing jazz music was playing, and scores of supporters sat in perfectly arrayed chairs. As Romney spoke for 50 minutes, answering a smattering of questions, his film crews were moving about the creaking hardwood floors, looking for just the right camera angles.


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