Politico reports on Mitt Romney’s newfound optimism about winning Iowa:

Buoyed by internal polling and a CNN survey released Wednesday afternoon that showed Newt Gingrich falling to fourth place in Iowa, with Ron Paul in second and Rick Santorum climbing to third, Romney told reporters in a deli [in Clinton, Iowa] that he couldn’t think of a reason why he won’t win the state.

“I can’t imagine, except that there are other good people running, and they’ve got good campaigns,” he said. “I like the fact that my support is building and the momentum is positive, but I can’t tell you where it’s going to end up.”

This was, of course, the 2008 Romney game plan: Win Iowa, take New Hampshire comfortably and then coast to the nomination. Four years later, in a primary contest in which he tried to win without an Iowa victory, that plan may finally be coming together. Politico’s Reid J. Epstein writes: “He’s nearly 30 points ahead in his New Hampshire stronghold, which will vote the week after Iowa. Wins in both will make it increasingly hard for his rivals to continue their campaigns.”

Wins in two states would give him momentum going into Florida ( for which mail-in ballots go out shortly after the New Hampshire primary). It would also muffle some of the carping from the right-wing media that has been largely hostile to him throughout the primary process. If Republicans in state after state vote for him, the Romney antagonists will be hard-pressed to say he’s an inauthentic conservative or that he’s outside the Republican mainstream.

Glenn Reynolds (“Instapundit” himself) writes: “If, as I expect, Obama is trailing in Tennessee by double digits, I’ll vote for [libertarian] Gary Johnson. But if it even looks like it might be close, I’ll vote for whoever the GOP nominee is, and feel good about it. Obama has been a presidential disaster without parallel in my lifetime, and that must be brought to an end before anything constructive can begin.” Those are fighting words to some in the right-wing media, but I frankly have yet to hear ordinary voters take issue with Reynolds’s philosophy.

Voters, unlike talk show hosts and bloggers, don’t benefit from the GOP’s remaining in the wilderness or from falling on their swords for the sake of ideological purity. The hunger to defeat Obama is palpable.

One little-examined fact may play a large role in Romney’s reconciliation with the base, in the event he is the nominee: He does very well with women voters. In November the Boston Globe reported:

Over the course of Mitt Romney’s second presidential campaign, his advisers have repeatedly seen something in public and independent polls that was not true in his previous campaigns: he’s regularly winning a larger share of support among women than men.

“We’ve seen that difference for a while,’’ Neil Newhouse, Romney’s pollster, said last week after delivering a presentation in Washington on “Walmart Moms,’’ which he views as a key demographic in the upcoming election. “It may be that, to women, experience makes more of a difference. Experience, leadership — it’s the intangibles.’’

That has only solidified as his opponents have come across as womanizers (Herman Cain), unfaithful bullies (Newt Gingrich) or strutting peacocks (Texas Gov. Rick Perry). The role Republican women play in running grass-roots organizations, turning out the vote and mobilizing support in their churches and synagogues, should not be underestimated. In sum, Romney may have a easier time getting 45-year-old women to knock on doors than winning over 20-something male bloggers who thinks House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) is a “squish.”

But it’s quite possible Romney, even after racking up some wins, will get flak from the right-wing media. In a general-election setting in which he is trying to position himself as the center-right candidate, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For example, the more the right-wing media carps about Romneycare, the more sensible Romney will appear to key independent voters in his determination to “repeal and replace” Obamacare.

Moreover, Romney has an ace in the hole: Obama. The state party activists, voters, officeholders and GOP fundraisers with whom I have spoken over the last few months — many of whom would have preferred to have had New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) or any number of others in the race — have flatly stated they’ll do whatever it takes to get rid of Obama. With Obama determined to stick to his GOP-bashing, class warfare spiel, Romney should have little trouble getting Republicans engaged. The chance to, as Glenn Reynolds put it, bring Obama’s tenure to an end and begin a period of conservative reform is simply too good to fritter away.

But first Romney’s got to win some contests. In this race, assuming that we’ve seen the last surprise development has been foolhardy.