Former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addresses a room full of his supporters at the Hotel Blackhawk Dec. 27, 2011 in Davenport, Iowa. (Chip Somodevilla/GETTY IMAGES)

MUSCATINE, Iowa – Seeking to tap into the deep desire among Republican voters to defeat President Obama, Mitt Romney made a direct pitch here Wednesday morning that he would be the most electable Republican in a general election.

“I think to beat President Obama, we have to have someone who has a vision of what America can be and will make it stronger and more prosperous and create jobs,” Romney told an overflow crowd of several hundred at a coffee shop here.

“We also have to have someone who can post up against President Obama on the economy, who knows the economy, who has credibility on the economy, and I do,” Romney continued. “It’s where I spent my life. I understand America because I’ve lived America -- I’ve lived the American Dream -- and I want to be able to bring the promise of America to all of our people and make sure that we send President Obama back to his hometown, where he can go back and learn what it’s like to work in the private sector.”

Romney’s remarks came at his first of three eastern Iowa stops on his bus tour Wednesday. This week, he has been drawing some of the biggest and most enthusiastic crowds of his campaign so far. Several voters interviewed in Muscatine said they had only recently decided to support Romney – in large part because they viewed him as the most electable candidate in the field.

“The only reason I’m supporting Romney is because he can win the election,” said Tim McCleary, 52, a mobile home park owner who said he came around to Romney in the past few days after watching last week’s debate. “The sad reality is I’m a fairly conservative person, but you have to send them out east.”

Pat Sheets, 69, a retired school principal, joined McCleary and scores of other area Republicans in lining up before dawn at the coffee shop to see Romney.

“He’s one of my top two – him and Newt,” Sheets said, referring to former House speaker Newt Gingrich. “We aren’t sure if Newt can win….I think Romney is the person most likely to beat Obama – and, in my opinion, that’s the top objective. Newt has a lot of baggage. I like what Newt says, but I don’t want to waste my vote on somebody who can’t actually win.”

Romney’s campaign is moving aggressively to capitalize on the apparently shifting sentiments of these voters. With the caucuses six days away, the race is wide open. Christian conservatives have not consolidated around a single candidate, and Gingrich’s slippage in the polls has presented Romney an opportunity to perhaps win next Tuesday’s contest.

Rep. Aaron Schock, who represents neighboring rural Illinois district, introduced Romney at the Muscatine event and made a more blatant appeal to Romney’s electability argument.

“It’s going to be a very tough election for president of the United States. Being in Iowa, you know what it means to be a Chicago politician and you know what kind of races Chicago politicians run,” Schock said.

“We need to be able to nominate a candidate who we can not only be proud of, but will be able to sustain the kind of attacks that the Obama machine is going to throw at our candidate – somebody who’s tested, somebody who is not prone to gaffes and somebody who we can be proud of to win over independent voters and has a track record of doing it,” Schock added. “And that, in our race, is Governor Romney.”