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Romney Back In Iowa, Shadowed by 2008 Loss

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney focuses on a key issue — corn — in Ankeny, Iowa, on Friday, as he prepares to launch his 2012 presidential bid.
Charlie Neibergall
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney focuses on a key issue — corn — in Ankeny, Iowa, on Friday, as he prepares to launch his 2012 presidential bid.

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.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.