having recently videotaped one here.
"You'll be seeing more and more of me as we get closer to the caucuses," he said. "Hopefully I'll be able to convince almost all of you to go to caucus. I really do want your support."
The former Massachusetts governor, who had irked some Iowans by paying little attention to the state for much of the year, is clearly stepping up his efforts here. Romney just opened a campaign headquarters in Des Moines and is visiting the state more frequently. He is expected to begin airing commercials soon, having recently videotaped one here.
Until recently, the candidate was ostensibly ignoring the state, though he had a small number of paid staffers quietly reaching out to his 2008 supporters. His staff was wary of repeating his approach four years ago, when Romney spent millions of dollars on a flashy campaign and banked so much on an Iowa victory that his second-place finish was a devastating blow to his presidential aspirations.
Though his campaign has kept expectations low this time around, much has gone Romney's way — the contest is more wide open at this point than in any Iowa nominating contest in memory, and the socially conservative and evangelical voters who thwarted him in 2008 have failed to coalesce behind a candidate.
If he can persuade his 2008 supporters to turn out for him again and the social conservative and evangelical voters who dominate the caucuses remain splintered, Romney could win on Jan. 3 despite spending a fraction of the money and time he spent here four years ago. That, coupled with an expected victory in the New Hampshire primary a week later, could seal the GOP race.
"A victory in Iowa and New Hampshire would likely decide the nomination," said Tim Albrecht, a GOP operative who worked for Romney in 2008 but is unaligned this year, and who serves as spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad. "It's hard to see a credible, competitive candidate emerging if Mitt Romney wins Iowa and New Hampshire."
The campaign says the effort is rolling out as planned, and that Romney didn't need to spend as much time or money here because he has name recognition that he lacked four years ago.