WASHINGTON – Looking ahead to next fall, Democrats in Iowa and beyond sought to weaken Republican Mitt Romney in advance of Tuesday's lead-off presidential caucuses as polls show the former Massachusetts governor amassing support.
Democrats dispatched party leaders and surrogates in Iowa on Monday to assail the Republican field while paying close attention to Romney, who has led in national polls and could use Iowa and other early states as a springboard to secure the Republican nomination. Democrats have tried to portray Romney as lacking any core convictions while raising questions about his business background, which the former governor has offered as a chief reason to send him to the White House.
"When push comes to shove, Romney's economic vision could not be more out of touch with the needs of working folks here in Iowa and across the country," said Michael Fitzgerald, Iowa's state treasurer and a Democrat.
President Obama is expected to compete heavily for Iowa's voters in next fall's general election after winning the state's caucuses in 2008 and carrying Iowa against Republican John McCain. Obama planned to address Democratic caucus attendees by web video Tuesday night.
A Des Moines Register poll released Saturday showed Romney with steady support at 24 percent, with Republicans Ron Paul and Rick Santorum competing closing with Romney in the caucuses. Half of likely caucus-goers viewed Romney as the Republican most likely to win the November election, putting him well ahead of Santorum and Paul on that question.
The Democratic National Committee held events with a union official who was laid off by a company that Romney's former private equity firm, Bain Capital, restructured more than a decade ago. The worker, Randy Johnson, said the layoffs show that Romney doesn't understand the needs of working people.
Democrats intend to make Romney's past a major focus of a head-to-head campaign, aiming to undercut the Republican's arguments against Obama on the economy. Johnson's former company, American Pad and Paper in Marion, Ind., was bought by Bain Capital in 1994 and the company closed the Indiana plant a year later, laying off about 200 people.
"He's always been in the business of making money," Johnson said by phone from Davenport, Iowa, where he met with reporters. Johnson currently works for the United Steelworkers union.
Under Romney, Bain Capital invested millions of dollars into dozens of private-equity ventures, with some producing giant profits. Romney has said his business attempted to make the companies more successful but he wasn't always able to succeed.
Romney's campaign has dismissed the efforts by Democrats to raise the case of the Indiana factory, which played prominently in Romney's 1994 campaign against Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy. Romney's campaign said Obama "and his cronies know that if they have to face Mitt Romney in the general election they are going to lose, which is why they continue their `kill Romney' strategy."
Democrats continued to pound away at Romney's record, calling him a serial flip-flipper who has shifted views on abortion and gun control.
In Florida, Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, told reporters that "all of the Republican candidates support the failed policies of past" but singled out Romney, urging voters to "ask themselves if they know the real Mitt Romney and just how far he's gone to remake himself to win the nomination."