Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is greeted by supporter… (Jim Young / Reuters )
Reporting from Des Moines — And the winner is ... Mitt Romney!
Not in Iowa's much-watched caucuses, which, of course, don't take place until Jan. 3.
Instead, Romney was the victor in a little-noticed but no less hotly contested bid for the affections of one 69-year-old Cedar Rapids housewife: a quilter, grandma, baker of knockout chocolate chip cookies and lover of autobiographies and the Grand Old Party.
Joni Scotter, the subject of a January profile, is one of just 20 or so Iowa Republican uber-volunteers -- loyalists valued not just for their commitment to a candidate but for the statewide network of friends and followers they can harness.
Scotter stayed neutral until finishing her tenure as regional head of a women's Republican group -- "I wanted to be fair to all the candidates" -- but recently made her allegiance known, backing the White House hopeful she supported four years ago.
"He knows finance and he knows jobs, and jobs are what it's all about," Scotter said. "I also like him as a person."
She acknowledged, however, that settling on the former Massachusetts governor took some time. Scotter had only good things to say about virtually all the candidates, and especially liked former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
He quit the race in August, and his decision to back Romney helped cement Scotter's endorsement.
She has been busy this election season caring for a sick loved one, which has kept her off the campaign trail more than usual, but she remains involved in the race.
She wrapped Romney in a hug when he showed up last week in Cedar Rapids. On Tuesday night, she dropped by a house party for Romney's wife, Ann, in nearby Robins.
As for Newt Gingrich, the latest Iowa front-runner, Scotter praised his ideas and energy, then, subtly, reiterated her preference.
"I would love," she said, "to see him have a position in the Cabinet."