Despite pouring millions of his own dollars into his campaign in Iowa, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will won’t see his investment pay off with a victory.
In early reporting by the Associated Press, Romney finished second to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the Republican caucuses with 23 percent of the vote. Huckabee finished with 31 percent.
Romney sought to frame his defeat as something less than that, saying he had trailed Huckabee by more than 20 points a few weeks ago. “I’ve been pleased that I’ve been able to make up ground and I intend to keep making up ground, not just here but across the country,” he said.
Going into Thursday’s caucuses Romney, who has far outspent his rivals, had slipped to second in polls behind Huckabee. The Des Moines Register poll showed Romney a distant second with 26 percent of the vote compared to Huckabee with 32 percent. And while other polls show the gap not as wide, Romney consistently finishes second in them.
Romney spent Thursday in Iowa speaking to two audiences of financial advisers before heading off to speak to caucus groups. The Salt Lake Tribune reported, “Romney appeared confident of a good showing in the caucuses, even taking questions from some 500 Iowans at the Principle Financial Group in downtown Des Moines — something he hasn’t allowed for several days.”
But Romney, like most candidates, sought to downplay the importance of the Iowa race. Asked by the Des Moines Register to respond to the poll numbers, Romney said, “This campaign is going to get started in a big way with the voice of Iowans. But it’s not going to be over after Iowa. And it’s probably not going to be over after New Hampshire, either.”
Regardless, losing to Huckabee is a significant defeat for Romney. “Romney’s organization may come through in the end,” the New York Times’ David Brooks said Thursday on the NewsHour. “But if it doesn’t, then Huckabee will have opened up a reformation for the Republican Party and really opened up a new avenue for it to evolve in the future.”
Romney, it seems, is already turning his attention to New Hampshire, where his main rival is Arizona Sen. John McCain. The Romney campaign released ads in New Hampshire attacking McCain’s record in the Senate while also praising his military service in Vietnam.