Romney Rides Wave Of Support
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is campaigning across Iowa this week and he's enjoying some new momentum. In recent months, he's watched several rivals briefly pass him in the polls, only to plummet. Now, the former Massachusetts governor is polling at or near the top in the state that broke his heart four years ago.
NPR's David Schaper is traveling with the Romney campaign and has this report from Mason City, Iowa.
DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: As an eager, early morning crowd awaited Romney's arrival, the owner of J's Homestyle Restaurant in Cedar Falls passed around fresh made cookies and Carmen Halverson(ph) took one.
CARMEN HALVERSON: She said it's a breakfast cookie. It's not overly sweet. Would you like a bite?
SCHAPER: It was good and Halverson says Mitt Romney is one good cookie.
HALVERSON: We saw a lot of him four years ago. I believe he's mature. I believe he can handle the job ahead of us.
SCHAPER: And Halverson says she's supporting Romney over other GOP candidates because...
HALVERSON: Some people have baggage. Some people are immature.
SCHAPER: Across the table, Carol Cooper(ph) of Cedar Falls adds this about why she's supporting Romney.
CAROL COOPER: Well, I don't tend to support the ones who've been too close to Washington and he hasn't. I sort of prefer the kind who come out of governorship or from other things and I'm to the middle. I'm a moderate and he's there and he can bring both sides together.
SCHAPER: Though his opponents have tried to criticize him as moderate Mitt or the Massachusetts moderate, Romney's more centrist views and temperament seem to be catching on here among those who see him as the Republicans' best chance to defeat President Obama.
So it's with a new air of confidence that Romney moves through the crowded restaurant shaking almost every hand and posing for pictures with any who asked.
MITT ROMNEY: Wait. Who's got the camera? Right here? All right.
SCHAPER: And like a frontrunner, Romney says little about his GOP rivals while ripping into President Obama, calling it immoral for the federal government to keep spending money it doesn't have.
ROMNEY: I look at what's happening in Washington; there are a lot of programs I like that we don't have to have. I will stop them. One of the first ones I'll stop is one I'm happy to stop: Obamacare. We'll get rid of it.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
SCHAPER: Unlike four years ago when he spent millions in Iowa and personally campaigned here relentlessly, Romney's strategy this time has been to lay low and lower expectations. So while he's run behind others in the polls, his numbers in the state have been steady and he's rising now in the final week before the caucuses, benefiting from the rapid rise and fall of several others.
But if he hears footsteps, they are those of Ron Paul. So without naming the Texas congressman, Romney took a swipe at Paul and his isolationist foreign policy yesterday in Muscatine. When someone asked about Israel, Romney brought up Iran's nuclear program.
ROMNEY: Actually, one of the people running for president thinks it's OK for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. I don't. I don't trust the ayatollahs. I don't trust the Ahmadinejad.
SCHAPER: Romney does seem to trust the polls that are telling him he can win Iowa this time. David Schaper, NPR News in Mason City, Iowa.
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