Romney Plays Iowa Expectations Game

From CBS News' Scott Conroy:

DAVENPORT, IOWA -- In an effort to lower expectations for victory in the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney today cited a nearly two-weeks old poll that showed him trailing Mike Huckabee by a wide margin in the state.

"I guess the last poll I saw from the Des Moines Register has me 22 points down, so I've got a lot of work ahead of me," Romney said.

The poll Romney was referring to was actually conducted by Newsweek and released on December 7, the day after Romney's major address on religion in College Station, Texas. Other polls since then have shown that Huckabee's lead in Iowa has narrowed.

The Romney campaign has recently been trying to present its candidate as the undisputed underdog in Iowa, even though Romney led in the polls here for months and is widely considered to have the best state organization out of all the GOP campaigns. The goal is to make a Romney victory—or for that matter, a close defeat—seem like an amazing come-from-behind win in the eyes of voters in subsequent primary states.

Romney mentioned the Newsweek poll at a press conference with reporters after touring the Rock Island Arsenal military installation across the Mississippi River in Illinois, an event which was closed to the media.

After criticizing Democrats for not backing the U.S. mission in Iraq, Romney said that he backs not only the troops in the field but also their commander-in-chief.

"I also support our president," Romney said. "I believe that the president has acted in good faith and out of a desire to protect this country—to do everything in his power to keep America safe."

Romney also made what has become almost an obligatory campaign stop criticism of Governor Huckabee's recent article in Foreign Affairs, which criticized the Bush administration for having an "arrogant bunker mentality."

"I was not impressed with his perspective on foreign policy," Romney said of Huckabee.

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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.