Any lingering doubts on Romney's new commitment to winning the Iowa caucus can now be laid to rest. He's opened a new campaign headquarters in Des Moines, a campaign spokesperson said his " strategy is to win there," and starting tomorrow Romney will begin airing a new commercial, his first in Iowa since his 2008 presidential campaign:
Even as Romney has hesitated to launch a full-fledged Iowa campaign, he's already light years ahead of his main competitors. The (likely temporary) surge of Newt Gingrich's campaign allowed him to open his state headquarters just this week and rehiring the staff members that had fled his campaign when money dried up over the summer. For all the handwringing about Romney's poor performance in 2008, he still finished in second place with 25 percent of the vote, nearly doubling Fred Thompson's third place vote. If current trends continue, there likely won't be any social conservative alternative who can capture the 34 percent that went to Mike Huckabee in 2008. Iowa's network of evangelicals and conservative media is a powerful and well organized force in state politics. They came out in full force for Huckabee last time, but for 2012 they are divided over who they should support, and an increasing number have decided to avoid interjecting themselves into an election where their best options are either the candidates who make Huckabee's campaign look truly mainstream (Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum) or the nominally social conservatives whose lives hardly reflect those values (philandering Herman Cain or serial adulterer Newt Gingrich).