Romney Packs 'Em In As Momentum Builds In Iowa

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had down played his prospects in Iowa for most of this year. But with the caucuses just days away, Romney is crisscrossing the state. He seems determined to prove he'll be tough enough to take on President Obama.

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.


And I'm Steve Inskeep, good morning.

Five days remain until Iowans hold their caucuses. And at the rate the Republican candidates are going, that's plenty of time for another candidate to rise in the polls and maybe fall again.

WERTHEIMER: The latest to gain support in Iowa is Rick Santorum, who's made it up to third place in a CNN poll. He is now ahead of Newt Gingrich who said just a few weeks ago, that polls were so favorable for him, he was sure to win the nomination.

INSKEEP: The leaders in Iowa right now remain Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. And Romney's campaign is where we start our coverage from Iowa today. Here's NPR's David Schaper.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Forget about polls for a minute, lets talk crowds. A huge one showed up to meet Mitt Romney before the sun had even risen over the Mississippi River in Muscatine yesterday.


SCHAPER: So many people couldn't get into to Elly's Tea and Coffee Shop where Romney was speaking, that he came out to them.

MITT ROMNEY: Boy, look at these guys out here getting squished. Hi, how are you?

SCHAPER: Squeezed in that crowd was 61-year old Daryl Smock.

DARYL SMOCK: Well, I have been undecided. And I think what has swayed me to Romney here, I think he'll stand up well to Obama.

SCHAPER: Smock calls Romney conservative enough, but not too conservative to turn off independents.

Seizing the moment in a state he wasn't expecting to win , Romney is now all but ignoring his GOP rivals, and is instead, sharpening his attacks on President Obama.

ROMNEY: He said in a speech in Davenport about a year ago, he said, look - he said that this is our moment, this is our time. Well, he's had his moment. Now is our time.


ROMNEY: And we're...


SCHAPER: At this event at a deli and bakery in Clinton, so many people showed up, the unexpected crowd filled another restaurant across the street. After speaking at both, Romney still downplayed his chances in next week's caucuses here, saying he's not predicting a win.

ROMNEY: I like the fact that my support is building and the momentum is positive. but I can't tell you where it's going to end up.


SCHAPER: That momentum continued to build when Romney's biggest crowd yet, turned out for a town hall meeting in North Liberty, including Kathy Grawe from nearby Coralville.

KATHY GRAWE: I have been undecided. But tonight, I feel pretty confident about him. I really do.

SCHAPER: Why is that?

GRAWE: Because I think he's the best one to beat Obama.

SCHAPER: And that, Grawe says, is the most important criteria to win her vote next Tuesday.

David Schaper, NPR News, In Waterloo, Iowa.

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