Unruffled Romney Looks to November and Beyond

Unruffled Romney Looks to November and Beyond

By Scott Conroy - December 30, 2011

LATIMER, Iowa -- In stark contrast his demeanor four years ago, Mitt Romney seems at peace this time as a presidential candidate.

He has seen enough ups and downs in his decades around political campaigns to avoid complacency, but Romney knows that the circumstances surrounding his fight to win the Republican nomination have shaped up even more favorably than he could have hoped.

His tranquility is evident in just about every campaign stop he makes these days and was particularly noticeable during an interview Thursday with RCP as his campaign bus rolled across northern Iowa -- a state that effectively crushed his White House hopes in 2008 but now presents him with the almost too-good-to-be-true opportunity: to move toward wrapping up the nominating battle just as it gets under way.

Romney confessed that he was having “a lot more” fun on this campaign than he did during his first run, when he often appeared tense on the trail, struggling to find a resonant message but instead flailing from one rationale for his candidacy to another.

“I recognize that things are out of our control,” Romney said, as he shot a glance at his wife Ann, who was seated next to him on a couch in the back of the bus. “That lowers the pressure a lot.”

As Romney fielded questions on a wide range of topics, his answers were often deliberate and nuanced in a way reflective of someone who knows he has a real chance to soon govern the nation.

Asked, for instance, whether a President Romney would allow a financial institution as large as Bank of America or Citigroup to fail in a hypothetical crisis, he first emphasized that he “would not suggest that some institutions should be free from the prospect of the bankruptcy courts.”

But after reiterating that he doesn’t support bailing out individual institutions, Romney left himself some leeway.

“Obviously, I will look at the circumstances that might exist in the future,” he said.

With his status as the clear-cut Republican favorite solidifying, and precious little time left for any of the underdogs to knock his once precarious front-runner candidacy off stride in the long run, Romney was in no mood to attack his GOP opponents.

He predicted that “three or four” candidates would be in a position to move forward after the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday and that the nominating fight would continue “for a while,” but he did not attempt to mask his skepticism about the long-term viability of Ron Paul, with whom he is tied in the latest RealClearPolitics Iowa polling average.

“Ron Paul’s not going to be our nominee,” Romney said in response to a question about whether the Texas congressman’s foreign policy beliefs would endanger the country if he were to become president.

When a voter pressed him about his own foreign policy views during a rally in Mason City earlier Thursday, Romney was careful not to pigeonhole himself in a manner he might later regret, as he answered in generalities about North Korea and other hot spots.

But asked in the interview for his reaction to the popular street protests that have challenged the authoritarian regime in Russia, Romney took a more aggressive stance, suggesting that he sees Vladimir Putin as an adversary rather than someone he might work with closely on the world stage.

“I think Putin has shown his colors as someone who would like to return to the glory days of the Soviet Union of the past,” Romney said. “I think his brand of democracy is not something we would recognize, and I hope the Russian people are able to find leaders that are more willing to represent the interests of the people.”

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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