Mitt Romney's apparent plan to win the Republican nomination has been to ignore Iowa for the most part, while banking on winning New Hampshire, Nevada, and Florida to effectively seal the nomination. The serial implosion of his GOP rivals, though, has emboldened Romney to make a real play for the state that broke his heart, and campaign, in 2008, says Jeff Zeleney in The New York Times. With six weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Romney just opened up a fully staffed state headquarters, and will visit Iowa this week, for only the fifth time this campaign. Still, his much-criticized decision to skip a Christian candidates' forum in Des Moines this weekend underlines his weakness among Iowa's social conservative base. Is Romney making a fool's bet?

Mitt has a good shot: "The idea of a Romney win in Iowa seems far-fetched" if you look at the recent polls, which have him trailing or tied with a bunch of "not Romneys," says Jonathan Tobin in Commentary. But none of the six rivals splitting the social conservative vote will get the 30 percent needed to win. Romney already polls at about 25 percent, and if he "makes an all-out effort in Iowa, he could still squeak by to a victory that could effectively end the GOP race."
"Iowa polls point to confusion, not Gingrich"

"RomneyCare" is a deal-breaker: Iowa Republicans want a small-government reformer, not "a candidate who will play it safe by echoing poll-tested platitudes," say Heather Higgins and Carrie Lukas in The Wall Street Journal. That bodes ill for Romney, "the GOP establishment's designated frontrunner." His real hurdle, though, is the 82 percent of Iowa caucus-goers who firmly "oppose any candidate willing to implement a state-level individual mandate requiring health insurance," like Romney did in Massachusetts.
"What Iowa voters want in a Republican nominee"

Iowa's a buyer's market: With five weeks to go, Iowa is really a four-man race between Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul, says Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. With Herman Cain "losing altitude" fast, Romney is the last businessman standing, "and though conservative media are loath to admit it, Romney ranks near the top of the 'second choice' polls," which matters in caucuses. Still, the only sure bet is that Iowa is up for grabs, and he who mounts the best ground game wins.
"Iowa isn't remotely a done deal yet"