Romney Back In Iowa, Shadowed by 2008 Loss

May 27, 2011
Originally published on May 27, 2011 8:14 pm

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has made his first 2011 campaign swing into Iowa, site of the first presidential caucuses next year.

He got off to a less-than-picture-perfect start, though, trying to focus on economic issues but facing questions about his commitment to competing in the state where he spent heavily but finished second to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2008.

Romney will formally announce his candidacy in New Hampshire next week, but he was all about Iowa Friday, kicking off his campaign in a nondescript building in a nondescript business park in the city of Ankeny. Romney sat at a small table at a software company called AgVision and chatted with employees about the agriculture business.

Afterward, the candidate talked to reporters gathered in the parking lot, highlighting his credentials as a businessman, and saying, "When it comes to the economy and jobs for the American people, President Obama has failed."

Then, he moved on to the main event of the day at the Iowa Historical Building in Des Moines, where he chatted with voters about how great it was to be back in the state, even saying once, "It's good to be home — it's not exactly home, but it felt like it last time I was around."

Romney gave a 20 minute speech, followed by a Q&A session, where most of the questions were about his failure to win the Iowa caucuses last time and his hints he won't invest as much time and money in the state this time.

But Romney said he'd be putting in plenty of both: "You'll see me more than you'll like in Iowa."

He was asked if he'll participate in the August straw poll in Ames, an iconic political event that coincides with the Iowa State Fair. Romney wouldn't commit — and the questions about his standing in the state went on.

Then about halfway through the scheduled length of the Q&A session, one of his answers ("I'm the same guy — it's just that the things I know — uh, oh ...") was cut short by a fire alarm.

The alarm shut off.

"If we need to go," he added, "I'll let you know I wasn't just doing that to avoid tough questions."

Then the alarm started again. The crowd slowly exited.

Romney posed for pictures and signed autographs outside before heading to his next event at a farm near Cedar Rapids.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And as NPR's national political correspondent Don Gonyea tells us, the Republican got off to a less-than-perfect start for 2012.

DON GONYEA: Romney will formally announce his candidacy in New Hampshire next week, but he was all about Iowa today, kicking off his campaign in a nondescript building in a nondescript business park in the city of Ankeny.

MITT ROMNEY: Come on in. There you go. There you go.

GONYEA: Romney sat at a small table at a software company called AgVision and chatted with employees.

ROMNEY: Now, you've been here a while.

NORRIS: Yes, I have.

ROMNEY: How are you guys doing?

NORRIS: Doing very well, I think, absolutely. Doing great.

ROMNEY: Well, the world of agriculture has been doing pretty well over the last few years.

GONYEA: Afterward, the candidate talked to reporters, standing at a tall mic stand set up in the parking lot.

ROMNEY: When it comes to the economy and jobs for the American people, President Obama has failed.

GONYEA: The main event of the day was in Des Moines at the Iowa Historical Building.

ROMNEY: Good to be with you. I see so many friends here. It's great to see you again. It's good to be home. This isn't exactly home, but it felt like it last time I was around.

GONYEA: After a 20-minute speech, there was a Q&A session, where most of the questions were about Iowa and about Romney's failure to win the caucuses last time and hints he won't invest as much time and money in the state this time around. Romney said he'd be putting in plenty of both.

ROMNEY: You'll see me more than you like, I'm afraid, in Iowa. You're going to get to - you're going to see my face from time to time.

GONYEA: Then he was asked if he'll participate in the August straw poll in Ames, an iconic political event that coincides with the Iowa State Fair. Romney wouldn't commit, and the questions about his standing in the state went on. Then about halfway through the scheduled Q and A session, one of his answers was cut short.

ROMNEY: I'm the same guy as I was last time. It's just that the things I know and the...

(SOUNDBITE OF FIRE ALARM)

ROMNEY: Uh-oh, they want to get us out of here, don't they? My guess is that that means we need to exit the building. Is that right? I presume that's the fire alarm, so...

GONYEA: Then the alarm stopped.

ROMNEY: If we need to go, we'll let you know. I wasn't trying to get out of tough questions, I promise you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GONYEA: Then the alarm went off again.

(SOUNDBITE OF FIRE ALARM)

GONYEA: Don Gonyea, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.