Romney Returns to Curb Huckabee's Surge in Iowa Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney returns to Iowa for a final pre-Christmas push. The former Massachusetts governor has seen his once-solid lead eclipsed by another former governor, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas.
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Romney Returns to Curb Huckabee's Surge in Iowa

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Romney Returns to Curb Huckabee's Surge in Iowa

Romney Returns to Curb Huckabee's Surge in Iowa

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

We begin this hour on the presidential campaign trail in the midst of the holidays. Iowa hold its first in the nation caucuses in two weeks, and the campaigns are trying to compete not only with each other, but also for public attention in a very busy season.

In a few minutes, we'll hear how some campaigns are trying to do that on the airwaves. First, a report on how Republican Mitt Romney is trying to regain the lead in Iowa. Polls show the former Massachusetts governor has fallen behind former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Today, Romney received the endorsement of Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, who ended his own presidential bid.

More now from NPR's David Greene.

DAVID GREENE: You don't have to dig far into the polls to understand why Mitt Romney has fallen behind in Iowa. Voters who identify themselves as evangelical Christians have been flocking to Mike Huckabee. So what do you do if you're Romney? How about a Christmas party? He hosted one last night at the Sheraton Hotel outside Des Moines. The signs on the walls said "Merry Christmas from the Romneys."

Mr. MITT ROMNEY (Former Massachusetts Governor; Republican Presidential Candidate): You are so kind to be here this evening and to share the festivities, a little Christmas party and a chance to meet some of my friends.

GREENE: He harkened back to one December in Massachusetts when he got a call about a family who'd ran out of heating oil.

Mr. ROMNEY: It was Christmas, it was snowing, it was very cold. And I said, yeah, give me her address. And so I got the two boys. We got the big old Ford Torino. I had this big, ugly, brown Ford Torino. We took it down to the garage, opened the trunk and filled the trunk full of firewood.

GREENE: Then Romney and his boys drove the wood over to this single mom and her kids. Romney's campaign gave out Christmas cookies at the party last night. And while the candidate's Mormon faith doesn't encourage drinking, the cash bar was drawing a crowd.

Ms. MARY JEAN ANECKSTEAD(ph) (Montessori School Teacher): The wine's great, yeah. They ran out of white, and I said, perfect, because I like (unintelligible).

GREENE: Mary Jean Aneckstead is a Montessori school teacher. She said she supported Romney early on but had doubts when she watched him in the debate.

Ms, ANECKSTEAD: He just didn't feel confident. He didn't look confident. And tonight he did.

GREENE: She said she's leaning towards caucusing for Romney. Her husband, Greg, said he hasn't decided between Romney and Fred Thompson.

Mr. GREG ANECKSTEAD(ph) (Iowa resident): The question is, is this the guy you want sitting across the table from somebody else when it's all on the line. And that's why we've come out to take one more look.

GREENE: Greg Aneckstead said he liked that Romney decided to wrap himself in Christmas last night.

Mr. ANECKSTEAD: It's that time of year, you know? And if that's into his belief system, why not. I'll be the stud that stand underneath the menorah right now, I just said, hey, that's playing to the crowd just a little too much.

GREENE: Romney was out of Des Moines early today. He arrived at a country club in Indianola.

Mr. ROMNEY: Now, having tasted some of those sweet rolls, I understand why you came this morning.

GREENE: But Romney wasn't so sweet himself. He resumed his attack against Mike Huckabee, who has criticized President Bush's foreign policy.

Mr. ROMNEY: You know, Governor Huckabee said that the Bush administration is subject to an arrogant, bunker mentality. And I thought, how in the world can you say that about this president? This president has kept us safe these last six years and we owe him a great debt of gratitude.

GREENE: The president, he said, has made mistakes.

Mr. ROMNEY: Even though we spun our wheels in Iraq for sometime, the truth is, now, General Petraeus' plan, which this President supported and put in place, that plan is working and America is safer, thanks to General Petraeus and President George W. Bush.

GREENE: A big endorsement for an unpopular president. That's always been seen as a risky strategy for the Republican candidates. But as Iowa goes down to the wire, Mitt Romney appears ready to take that risk.

David Greene, NPR News, Des Moines.

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