Mitt Romney will be the featured speaker at the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s 2012 Presidential Candidate Series on May 27, in Des Moines, Iowa. This will be Mr. Romney’s first visit to the state this year. Iowa holds its “first-in-the-nation” caucuses in February of next year.
There had been questions as to whether Romney would campaign in Iowa at all, this year or next. In 2008, he lost (badly) to Mike Huckabee after spending well over $10 million on advertising and organising expenses. Huckabee spent about one-twentieth of what Romney spent, but crushed him anyway.
Romney’s campaign never really recovered from the Iowa loss and Sen. John McCain went on to win the New Hampshire primary and, eventually, the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. Since then, the Romney campaign has toyed with the idea of skipping Iowa altogether and focusing all of its early attention on New Hampshire.
The problem with that gambit is that it might enable someone else to come in and “occupy” Romney’s “space.” Right now, Romney is the GOP establishment’s default candidate. But they could fall in love with anyone who looked strong in Iowa, touched all the GOP establishment’s hot buttons and seemed acceptable to social conservatives. The GOP establishment worries that Romney’s health care initiative in Massachusetts and his religion (Mormon) may make him unacceptable to the party’s social conservative base.
The only way for Romney to prevent an “establishment alternative” from emerging in Iowa is by competing there and beating anyone who might occupy his “space.” Presumably Romney would then go on to win New Hampshire and dispatch with all those who seek the GOP establishment’s affections.
Romney’s speech will likely focus on the economy and how to improve its performance. By campaigning to the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Romney is sending a signal to social conservatives that they are second on his dance card. The business establishment of Iowa comes first.