PELLA, Iowa -- Mitt Romney is in an enviable position for a Republican quasi-frontrunner. He spent much of 2007, in vain, trying to win the the Iowa caucuses. He has a built-in floor of support left over from that. At least three other candidates -- Pawlenty, Bachmann, and Perry -- are scrapping to be the "anti-Mitt," with none of them commanding a real advantage yet. The fact that Perry's joining the race, actually, is a short-term win for him -- when he loses the straw poll this weekend, it won't really make news.
"I made the decision not to participate in straw polls because I want to use our resources in actual election contests that generate delegates," he told reporters after a meeting with 14 "business leaders" in this small city, a short drive southeast of Des Moines.
He gave much the same Perry answer that Tim Pawlenty's been giving. "I'll get a full view, I'm sure, of all the successes of Gov. Perry. He's a fine man, and a fine governor, and the record in Texas speaks for itself." But there was a twist: "I've spent 25 years in the private sector, and I've seen how it works." Hint, hint: Perry hasn't.
I'll have a fuller story on this later, but the event that preceded this was a perfect example of the work Romney does and doesn't have to do. While Tim Pawlenty is making six stops a day, and Michele Bachmann is riding a bus straight out of Maximum Overdrive, Romney arrived at the Vemeer compound in an SUV and talked to 14 people with 40 reporters listening to every heartbeat. Later today, he speaks at a Republican fundraiser nearby. Tomorrow he goes to the state fair and participates in the debate. And he's out, for Bachmann or Paul to get a "Straw Poll Victor" headline quickly snuffed out by whatever Romney says.