Romney Scrambles to Win Iowa After Spending Tens of Millions
Mitt Romney, who a month ago believed his victories in Iowa and New Hampshire were bought and paid for, is now scrambling to remain competitive in both states, continuing to outspend his adversaries by a wide margin, saturating the Iowa and New Hampshire airwaves with anti-Huckabee and anti-McCain commercials.
From a purely business point of view the past four weeks have marked an extraordinary setback for the Romney campaign.
Since January 1, 2007, the former Massachusetts governor has spent well in excess of $80 million, including at least $17.4 million of his own money, paying media fees in excess of $30 million, salaries of roughly $16 million, and consulting payments of more than $15 million.
Among Romney's costly innovations this year has been putting more than 80 local conservative leaders in key states on his campaign payroll, in what amounts to a 21st Century revival of "walk-around money."
For a long time - through the summer and well into November -- the Romney "early state" strategy aimed at winning Iowa and New Hampshire looked as if it had paid off in spades.
From August 26 to November 27, Romney led in 26 straight polls in Iowa, sometimes by as much as 23 points. In New Hampshire, Romney saw his advantage grow to 15 points in mid-December.
Since those halcyon days, however, Romney has fallen into second place in Iowa, running roughly four points behind former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. In New Hampshire, Romney's double digit lead has steadily eroded, while John McCain, who was trailing by 11 to 18 points at the start of December, has surged to within 3.5 percentage points.
Romney, in the assessment of most political analysts, can still pull it out. But even after accommodating social issue conservatives by abandoning his formerly moderate stance on such cultural/moral matters as gay rights and abortion, Romney finds himself struggling to convince voters that he is a legitimate conservative while simultaneously ripping into the ideological credentials of his competitors.
Romney's biggest setback was a devastating December 26 editorial in the Union Leader, a conservative Republican newspaper with the widest circulation of any publication in New Hampshire.
"Granite Staters want a candidate who will look them in the eye and tell them the truth....Mitt Romney has not," the editorial declared. "The more Mitt Romney speaks, the less believable he becomes.... Mitt Romney has spent a year trying to convince Granite Staters that he is [trustworthy]. It looks like they aren't buying it. And for good reason."