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Mitt Romney's 'electability' against Obama key to Iowa caucuses

Mitt Romney is mostly ignoring his GOP rivals, concentrating instead on challenging Barack Obama. It's part of his general election strategy, designed to show Republicans in Iowa and elsewhere that he'd be most 'electable' next November.

By Staff writer / December 31, 2011

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney makes his way through a crowd during a campaign stop at Old Salt Restaurant in Hampton, N.H., Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011.

Winslow Townson/AP

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As the New Year’s weekend revelry slides toward the more serious Iowa caucuses next Tuesday, Mitt Romney’s steady-as-she-goes campaign increasingly centers on the bottom line in presidential nominating politics for challengers: electability.

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He’s leaving it to independent PACs to rhetorically bludgeon his GOP rivals, campaigning with such prominent and respected supporters as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. And though there are months and many primary elections to go, Romney already is running against Barack Obama.

That makes sense, given what could be the most important element in this past week’s CNN poll in Iowa.

Ron Paul leads Romney on most issues. But asked who had the best chance of beating Obama, Iowa Republicans made it clear: At 41 percent, Romney nearly triples Paul’s 14 percent. Asked who’s more “presidential,” Romney leads Paul by 6 points (25-19).

Other polls indicate Romney’s strength versus Obama as well.

As noted by Real Clear Politics, Romney is the only GOP hopeful who bests Obama in any of the recent polls (Rasmussen Reports and Public Policy Polling). And on the Real Clear Politics polling average, Romney is much closer to Obama (1.6 percentage points), than Newt Gingrich (8.9 points), Rick Perry (12.5 points), Michele Bachmann (15 points), Rep. Paul (7.7 points), or Jon Huntsman (8.6 points).

As Obama’s favorability ratings creep upward, the relative strength of the challenger as measured by the somewhat ineffable “electability” becomes more important – hence Romney’s directly engaging Obama.

“I will be talking about his record and his failure, and he will be trying to make this a personal attack, which I think will sour the American people,” Romney told the Boston Herald. “One of the reasons people supported candidate Obama was his soaring vision for a more positive America, and he has now succumbed to the more base form of politics which is attacking individuals, dividing Americans and poisoning the spirit of leadership.”

If that sounds like Romney is offering his own version of “hope and change,” he is.

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