It was Mitt Romney’s Iowa swan song. For at least six years, he has pursued the highest office in the land. All along, Romney’s path to the Oval Office ran straight through the Hawkeye State.
On Sunday morning, in front of several thousand enthusiastic supporters, Romney delivered one final speech to the people of Iowa. One final plea for our six crucial electoral votes that could make the difference between a disappointing conclusion to a long journey and the fulfillment of a dream that every American strives for but precious few come close to achieving.
As early as 2006, Mitt Romney was making frequent visits to Iowa. He began eyeing the First-in-the-Nation caucus state long before that, laying the groundwork for a presidential run. The former Massachusetts governor would make Iowa his second home for much of 2007. Following the campaign model that repeatedly worked so well for Governor Terry Branstad and Senator Chuck Grassley, Romney visited all 99 Iowa counties, paving the way for a victory at the 2007 Ames Straw Poll.
However, his hopes were dashed by a disappointing second place finish in the 2008 Iowa Caucus. Romney’s best shot at gaining the momentum necessary to win the GOP nomination was shattered. The long sought-after dream ended one month later. At least, temporarily.
At the time, Ann Romney’s made it clear to her husband, via a videotaped message, that he had run his final campaign. Mitt Romney jokes that Mrs. Romney said the same thing after the birth of each of their five boys.
However, Romney remained engaged in Iowa politics. He donated $30,000 to the Republican Party of Iowa and helped several legislative candidates in the 2008 general election. Following Barack Obama’s defeat of GOP nominee John McCain, it soon became evident that Mitt Romney was eyeing another run at the presidency. He returned to Iowa a handful of times in 2010, helping Terry Branstad reclaim the governor’s office. Romney also hoped his strong organization from 2008 would remain intact.
However, Romney’s dance with Iowa leading up to the 2012 Iowa Caucus was more of the hokey pokey than a waltz. Still stinging from their 2008 letdown, his campaign believed Romney’s path to the nomination would not require an Iowa victory. He skipped the 2011 Ames Straw Poll and made infrequent visits to the state.
However, Romney was the only GOP candidate who withstood the fluctuations in the polls. Most of his opponents rose to the top but quickly fell, while his poll numbers remained steady. It soon became clear that Iowa was indeed winnable. A late December 2011 push with campaign rallies in Iowa’s largest cities helped the former Massachusetts governor finish in a virtual tie for first place. Although Rick Santorum was eventually declared the winner of the caucuses, it was Mitt Romney who left the state with all the momentum.
Months later, the GOP nomination became his. And it quickly became obvious that Iowa could be one of the few states that would make the difference in the presidential election. So, Mitt Romney is once again a frequent visitor here. On Sunday morning, with Election Day looming just 48 hours away, Romney campaigned in Iowa one final time.
Once more, the Hawkeye State might hold the key to Romney’s presidential aspirations. Once more, he is relying on Iowans to push him through. Iowans answered in a major way Sunday morning. It was one of the most raucous political rallies in state history. Several thousand supporters packed into Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines. The enthusiasm reverberated around the room.
The Oak Ridge Boys and the Iowa GOP’s top political heavyweights fired up the crowd. Governor Branstad delivered one of the most spirited speeches of his long political career. But the headline act was what everyone came to see. And he did not disappoint.
For 23 minutes, Mitt Romney held Iowans in the palm of his hand. They cheered. They chanted. They roared with approval as the GOP nominee laid out his vision for the future. They were inspired by a man they have gotten to know well. A man they hope can turn the nation’s economy around and lift the country from the doldrums of the past four years.
After six years of campaigning in Iowa, Mitt Romney made one final plea for his supporters in this battleground state. One final push for our six crucial electoral votes.
“I need your vote. I need your work. I need your help,” he said, as the standing room only crowd began cheering again, their volume rising in unison with Romney’s voice to the point they were competing with each other.
“Walk with me,” he said. “We’ll walk together. Let’s begin anew. I need Iowa. I need Iowa so we can win the White House and take back America, keep it strong. Make sure we always remain the hope of the Earth. I’m counting on you. Will you get the job done?”
With that, Mitt Romney departed. Other rallies in other battleground states awaited. But with rallies in Dubuque on Saturday, Des Moines on Sunday, and a visit by VP nominee Paul Ryan on Monday, it is clear that they are counting on Iowa to end Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House. They are counting on Iowa to bring real change to the rest of the country. The eyes of the nation will once again be on us this Tuesday. Iowa, what are you going to do?
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