PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- On a day that poll numbers showed him falling behind presidential rival Newt Gingrich in the state where the first votes will be cast next month, Mitt Romney signaled that he’s looking well past the early contests and amassing financial resources for the long haul.
Speaking to reporters here, at an event where he received the endorsement of former Vice President Dan Quayle and headlined a fundraiser, Romney suggested he wants to pack more into his campaign coffers before focusing on the kind of non-stop retail campaigning that traditionally is required to win the key early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
"I’ve still got I think about seven more days of fundraising and then we get to spend almost all of our time in New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, Florida, a couple of other states,” Romney said. He suggested that he has yet to uncork all his campaign resources. “I’ll be on the air a good deal more than in the past, doing our very best to communicate to the American people why I’m running for president and hopeful getting their support," he said.
The latest polls suggest Romney needs to move quickly. A CBS/New York Times poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers released late Tuesday was the fourth survey in three days to show Gingrich beginning to build a commanding lead over Romney, long assumed to be the Republican field’s frontrunner.
Even so, Romney kept his sights trained on the man he hopes to meet in the general election. Referring to a speech that President Obama had delivered earlier in the day in Kansas, Romney said he was “surprised” to see his potential opponent make an “unusual comparison.”
“He said he is like Terry Roosevelt, and I said, in what way is he like Teddy Roosevelt? Teddy Roosevelt, of course, founded the Bull Moose Party. One of those words applies,” said Romney, using an unusually colorful innuendo for a candidate who famously never curses. “When this president's talking about how he's helped the economy, one of those words applies."
With less than a month until the Iowa caucuses, Romney has yet to fully commit to campaigning in the state. Asked how he tried to appeal to evangelical voters, an important constituency in Iowa and one that has been difficult for Romney to reach, he dismissed the notion that he would tailor his message to any specific demographic. "This is a time of decision for America. Do we want an entitlement society or merit-based opportunity society,” he said. “My view is that whether you're evangelical or Catholic or Jewish or Muslim or Mormon that that message will connect."
Romney, who has consistently argued against quick fixes to economic problems, endorsed the payroll tax cut extension that President Obama has been urging, calling it "a nice thing to do for people who are really struggling right now in the middle class who have really been hurt by the Obama economy." Some Republicans have said the tax cut is an ineffective form of stimulus, and have stalemated in coming to an agreement on a deal.
The former Massachusetts governor was accompanied by Quayle, who served as former President George H.W. Bush’s vice president and whose son, Ben, is a member of Congress. The younger Quayle has yet to endorse in the presidential race, nor has the former president. But Romney did visit Bush in Houston last week, a fact both he and Quayle went out of their way to note.