Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gets a hug during a campaign… (Evan Vucci, Associated…)
Reporting from Marion, Iowa — Mitt Romney, seeking a first-place finish in the caucuses that eluded him four years ago, grew increasingly confident Monday, predicting victory when Iowa holds the first presidential voting contest in the nation.
"We're going to win this thing, with all of our passion and strength and do everything we can to get this campaign on the right track to go across the nation and to pick up other states and to get the ballots I need, the votes I need to become our nominee," he said at an asphalt plant here.
That was a switch for the candidate, who, along with his campaign, has been trying to dampen expectations as he faced a tight race with Rep. Ron Paul and former Sen. Rick Santorum. That attitude may be prompted by their difficulty in the long run even if they do well here — Paul's support has been slipping and his prospects outside Iowa are dim, and Santorum has shown no sign of being able to marshal the funds and campaign machinery to compete nationally.
Romney never mentioned his GOP rivals on the stump, instead listing economic and foreign woes that he said showed that President Obama was an abject failure. Romney argued that Obama wants to make the United States more like Europe, but Romney seeks to restore the meritocracy created by the founders.
Romney spoke briefly to hundreds of people at events in Davenport, Dubuque and Marion, a final swing that seemed to be aimed less at those present than at those who would be watching the evening news. Romney hit media markets that reach about 80% of Iowans.
He was accompanied by his wife, Ann, and four of his five sons.
"Just in case we didn't have an audience, I brought my family," Romney quipped at a Dubuque paper factory.
His final event, in Clive, drew more than 1,000 supporters and was disrupted by protesters associated with Occupy Wall Street.