Mitt Romney's campaign is facing a pivotal decision on how aggressively to play in the Iowa caucuses. He could downplay his chances there, expend minimal effort and avoid the repercussions of not winning. That would raise the stakes in the primaries in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida - states where he's better-positioned.
Or he could take a calculated risk, spend additional money and time in the Hawkeye State, and go for broke - hoping for a surprising win, thanks to a crowded and underwhelming conservative field of opponents. An Iowa win would put him on a glide path to wrapping up the nomination early.
But based on his comments at a private event with supporters in Florida this morning, he sounds less willing to take that risk.
Per the St. Petersburg Times:
Romney said after airing ads in Iowa for nearly an entire year during the 2008 campaign, he has not run any spots to date. Romney told the crowd his campaign calculus was that he could spend nothing and come in fourth or spend a bit and finish second or third. He guessed that Republicans could split the first three events, which would make Florida particularly important.
Romney predicted a Tea Party favorite would win Iowa and that he would take New Hampshire, according to interviews with six people in the audience. Romney told the crowd he would seal the nomination by then winning Florida's Republican contest.