December 2, 2011 6:03 pm

Romney begins advert campaign in Iowa

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Mitt Romney has launched his first television advertisements in Iowa, stepping up his campaign as polls show the Republican hopeful trailing rival Newt Gingrich badly just a month out from the state’s caucus.

A month from Saturday, Iowa Republicans will become the first in the US to vote on the party's candidate to challenge President Barack Obama at next November’s election.

Mr Romney appears to be ratcheting up his campaign at the same time as increasing his attacks on Mr Gingrich, who, according to the latest aggregate of polls collated by Real Clear Politics, has 26.3 per cent support in the state against Mr Romney’s 15 per cent.

Analysts said that the launch of the ad campaign showed that the former governor was clearly stepping up his activities in the first-in-the-nation state. However, they warned that the move could backfire.

“Romney has a problem because he does not want to raise expectations to the point where he is expected to win Iowa and then not win, because that would inflict a lot of damage on him in New Hampshire,” said Tim Hagle, a political scientist at Iowa University.

Mr Romney spent $10m campaigning in Iowa four years ago, only to come a humiliating second to Mike Huckabee.

The new ad portrays the co-founder of Bain Capital, the private equity firm, as a conservative businessman and stresses his economic credentials. “I spent my life in the private sector. I’ve competed with companies around the world. I’ve learnt something about how it is that economies grow,” he says in the ad.

The spot is a variation on one already running in New Hampshire, a state where Mr Romney, as a former governor of neighbouring Massachusetts, is expected to do well, although a win there is not certain.

“We’re not going to balance the budget just by pretending that all they have to do is take out the waste. We’re going to have to cut spending,” Mr Romney says in the ad, which shows photos of him campaigning in Iowa, including at the state fair.

It ends with a photo of Mr Romney holding hands with his wife of 42 years, Ann – a shot aimed at highlighting the contrast between his stable family situation and that of Mr Gingrich, whose affairs and three marriages do not sit well with social conservatives.

Interactive graphic: Race for the White House

US presidential elections interactive

The backgrounds and platforms of some of the declared candidates and others who have expressed interest in running

But the ad campaign is only one part of what Mr Romney needs to do to record a credible showing in Iowa, according to analysts. While Mr Gingrich has almost no ground operation to speak of in the state, Mr Romney needs to put in more effort on the ground in the sort of “retail politics” that Iowans expect, Mr Hagle said.

“That means showing up, more than anything else. He needs to come here and do the whole ‘town hall, shaking hands, looking people in the eye’ thing,” he said.

Mr Romney’s campaign insists he has already had a strong presence in the state. “Governor Romney has been to Iowa and will be back many more times,” said Andrea Saul, his spokeswoman.

“He was in Iowa last week and will be there next week,” she said, adding that his son Josh was there this week and Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor who was urged to run for the nomination but is instead supporting Mr Romney, would also be in the state campaigning for him next week.

Mr Christie on Thursday told Iowans during a “telephone town hall” meeting that a solid showing in the state would put Mr Romney on the path not just to the Republican nomination, but to victory in the general election.

Mr Romney has picked up some high-profile endorsements, including from Robert Ray, the moderate Republican governor of Iowa for 14 years.

“I want our next president to be someone whose character and judgment I respect and whose ideas are valid for our country,” Mr Ray said in a statement on Friday. “I believe Mitt Romney offers the personal qualities and vision to become a truly great president.”

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