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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Romney Returns to Iowa for One Last Shot at Victory

DES MOINES - Holding four events in four states, Mitt Romney kicked off his second consecutive day of packed campaigning Sunday in an attempt to edge out President Obama - who polls show holds a slight lead in several critical battleground states - in the final 48 hours before Election Day.

On the busy schedule: Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Speaking at an early morning rally here to a crowd of 4,400, Mr. Romney implored voters to turn out for him on Tuesday.

“I need Iowa,” Mr. Romney said. “I need Iowa so we can win the White House and take back America, keep it strong, make sure we always remain the hope of the earth. I'm counting on you.”

Iowa is a state that has bedeviled the Romney campaign since the very beginning. In 2008, his failure to win over social conservatives here - and his subsequent second-place finish to Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas - helped dash his presidentia l hopes.

This time around, Mr. Romney seemed to have won the Iowa caucuses by eight votes, only to have the victory overturned and handed to Rick Santorum (by 34 votes) just two days before the South Carolina primaries.

Aides privately joke that if the race goes to a recount, the hold-up will be in Iowa - the state on which they just haven't quite been able to get a grip.

But Iowa is also the state that first launched Mr. Obama four years ago, and a state where the president hasn't quite been able to rekindle the enthusiasm and sense of hope that galvanized his 2008 bid. The Des Moines Register, which endorsed him four years ago, switched its support to Mr. Romney this year, making the same case against the president that Mr. Romney offers on the stump.

“The president's best efforts to resuscitate the stumbling economy have fallen short,” wrote the editorial board. “Nothing indicates it would change with a second term in the White House.”

Gov. Terry E. Branstad of Iowa introduced Mr. Romney at the rally, and tried to remind the state's voters about what he said were the president's failed promises.

“Iowans feel betrayed,” Mr. Branstad said. “Almost a sense of - not only disappointed, but almost a sense of betrayal that our principles of sound budgeting and responsible government have been ignored by this administration for four straight years.”

He concluded, “Iowa's message for Obama is: it's time for a change. It's time for you to go back to Chicago.”

Mr. Romney, speaking from teleprompters - which he has used on and off since he rolled out his closing argument on Friday - attacked Mr. Obama for not achieving any real bipartisanship in Washington.

“Instead of building bridges, he's made the divide between our parties wider,” Mr. Romney said. “Let me tell you why it is he's fallen so far short of what he's promised: it's because he cared more about a liberal age nda than he did about repairing the economy.”

Leading the crowd in a call-and-response, he continued: “I mean, do you think Obamacare created jobs? Did his war on coal, oil and gas create jobs? Did Dodd-Frank regulations help banks make more loans? Does raising taxes put people to work?”

“No,” cried out the crowd, in response to each question.

Though Mr. Romney's voice was hoarse, he gave a longer-than-usual stump speech - just over 30 minutes - and seemed energized by the response of the crowd.

“We are Americans!” he enthused suddenly. “We can do anything!”