From Iowa: Romney upbeat, but won't say he'll be first in caucuses

CLIVE, Iowa—Despite polls that show Mitt Romney either running first or a very close second in the Iowa Republican presidential caucuses and an obvious air of confidence in the final campaign appearances by the former Massachusetts Governor, none of his campaign quarterbacks would go as far as to predict an outright win today.

“We’ve won already,” Romney campaign senior advisor Ron Kaufman told HUMAN EVENTS last night, “The race for the top three spots in the race is extremely close, so just by being in those spots, we’ve beaten the expectations.

When we asked if he felt confident enough to predict a first-place finish by Romney, Massachusetts Republican National Committeeman Kaufman replied: “We don’t have to place first in Iowa.”  He explained that, were Romney to place second or even third in the caucuses, “he would go on to New Hampshire, where he is in extremely strong shape for the primary January 10.  Look, Mitt Romney has been building this campaign for years and he’s the only candidate in a position to compete for delegates in all fifty states and win the 1,150 delegates needed for nomination at the [Republican National Convention] in Tampa.”

Like Kaufman, Romney’s top campaign consultant in Iowa stopped short of predicting his man finishing first. 

“We’re going to do very, very well,” said David Kochel, veteran Hawkeye State GOP consultant, who has helped mobilize presidential campaigns in the caucuses for Bob Dole (1988), Lamar Alexander (1996), and Romney four years ago.

Kochel pointed out that in contrast to Romney’s ’08 effort, “where we had 52 staffers here and spent $10 million and about 50-60 days of our candidate’s time in Iowa,” this time Mitt has made “eight visits to Iowa, spent about $200,000 on television ads, and has only five full-time staffers. And we’re relying more on volunteers this time.”

Like Kaufman, Kochel stressed that Romney is “running a national campaign” and, with a slimmed-down effort in Iowa, “we are allowed to be more competitive everywhere.”