"I need you tomorrow night. I need every single vote in this room and I need you to get a couple other votes from your neighborhood and get to the caucus," Romney told hundreds of enthusiastic supporters gathered in a chilly asphalt plant here. "I need a great showing here in Cedar Rapids. We're going to win this thing, with all of our passion and strength and do everything we can to get this campaign on the right track to go across the nation and to pick up other states and to get the ballots I need, the votes I need to become our nominee."
Romney had strong support in this area in his unsuccessful 2008 bid, and replicating it, at a minimum, is key to his chances Tuesday night to fend off Rep. Ron Paul and former Sen. Rick Santorum for a first place finish.
Until tonight, Romney and his advisors had been trying to dampen expectations. The candidate repeatedly said on Sunday that he didn't know who would win the caucuses, and his advisors on Monday said they were unfazed by the prospect of a second- or third-place finish because the nomination battle would be long.
"It's not going to be a one-state process. You're going to have hundreds of thousands, millions of Republicans are going to weigh in," said Stuart Stevens, a senior advisor. "We look at this as a long process and it could be a very long process. We're prepared for it to be a very long process and that's okay for us."
Their laissez-faire attitude could be prompted by the circumstances of their top rivals in Iowa. Paul's support has been slipping and his prospects outside of this state are dim, and Santorum, though he is seeing a late surge, has shown no sign of being able to marshal the funds and campaign machinery to compete nationally.
Romney made the remarks at the third stop of the day, where he continued to ignore his GOP rivals to focus on President Obama. The former Massachusetts governor argued that Obama wanted to make the United States into a European-style welfare state, or society based on entitlements where government redistributes wealth, rather than a meritocracy.
"If they do that they'll substitute envy for ambition and they'll poison the very spirit of America, and keep us from being one nation under God. I want to see America united," Romney said. "I've watched a president whose become the great divider, the great complainer, the great excuse giver, the great blamer. I want to have an America that comes together. I'm an optimist. I believe in the future of America."