Jamie Dupree – WSB Radio

The Stretch Run in Iowa

As the seven major Republican candidates filed out of the Sioux City Convention Center on Thursday night in Iowa, we started entering a brand new phase of this political fight, a rush down the stretch to the caucuses on January 3.

“I need your help at the caucus,” said Mitt Romney during a visit to a steel plant on the northeast side of Sioux City.

“I’d love to have your support,” Romney added, joking to the crowd that his backers should caucus on January 3 while all others should convene on January 4.

(Mitt Romney speaks to a group of voters at Missouri Valley Steel in Sioux City Iowa)

Romney didn’t light his audience on fire by any means, but he is clearly a much better candidate than the one I watched in Iowa and New Hampshire four years ago.

Back then, Romney looked like a CEO running for President; now, he’s more at ease.

Back then, he actually gave Power Point presentations at campaign stops; now he is more comfortable interacting with the audience.

While most polls still have Romney trailing Newt Gingrich in Iowa, there was a sense of confidence in the Romney camp, with lots of rumblings that Gingrich’s poll numbers are going down, after a big surge in recent weeks.

Gingrich still maintains that his refusal to go toe-to-toe with his critics will keep him above the fray and in the lead of the GOP race.

Ron Paul hopes his organization will deliver victory on January 3.

Romney’s camp is hoping the same thing.

They all have two and a half weeks to prove they can win in the Hawkeye State.