Mitt Romney Campaign Steps Up Its Game In Iowa

WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney's presidential campaign gave its clearest indication yet that it plans on competing more aggressively in Iowa than originally expected, telling reporters that it is working to win the 2012 caucuses there.

"We're going to be in Iowa enough to show that Mitt Romney is the best candidate to take on President Obama, and to present a plan that's thoughtful and detailed to turn our economy around and put people back to work," Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said during a press call with reporters on Monday.

"As for a strategy, our strategy is to win there," she continued, in an apparent slip that contradicted previous statements from the campaign. "Our strategy is to -- we're going to get people out to the caucuses," she quickly added.

The Romney campaign has long worked to lower expectations for his performance in the Iowa caucuses, recognizing that the large bloc of religious conservatives in the state is not the former Massachusetts governor's strongest base of support. He recently predicted he will lose the state.

In 2008, Romney invested $10 million in Iowa but finished in second place in the caucuses.

In recent weeks, however, his campaign has stepped up its presence in the state, rolling out television commercials, reaching out to former supporters and potential new ones and quietly opening an office in Des Moines.

On the press call, Gitcho said the office had been opened due to "the increased interest in volunteering as we approach the caucus state."

The Romney campaign is hosting 12 conference calls with reporters on Monday, in order to allow campaign surrogates to respond to the Democratic National Committee's new ad campaign attacking the former governor's character.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who held the first conference call, said that President Obama is the "Barney Fife" of presidential politics because of his "stumbling, bumbling, incoherent and ineffective approach" on the economy. He further said Democrats were attacking Romney so much because they view him as a threat.

"The last thing they want to do is run against Mitt Romney," said Pawlenty, who endorsed Romney shortly after dropping out of the presidential race. "If you look at the national polls and the polls amongst independents in swing states, the strongest Republican candidate in the field to run against and defeat Barack Obama is Mitt Romney. President Obama knows that, the DNC knows that, so they are purposefully and systematically now focused on Mitt Romney, trying to tear him down, as a way to influence the Republican primary. They're doing it even before their Republican opponent has been identified."

This story has been updated.