MARION, IA—Mitt Romney set a high bar for his performance in the Iowa Caucuses today, telling an audience here that he's going to win — and for the first time saying that he's going to win the Iowa Caucuses and the Republican nomination.
"I need your help. You guys I need you tomorrow night. I need every single vote in this room, and I need a couple of other votes from your neighborhood and get to the caucus. I need a great showing here in Cedar Rapids," he told a packed warehouse of hundreds of enthusiastic Romney supporters.
"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 to pick up other states and to get the ballots I need, the votes I need, to become our nominee."
In his most energetic performance in a day of many pre-caucus rallies, Romney tried out a new attack line against President Barack Obama, continuing to ignore the rise of former Sen. Rick Santorum as a contender in the Iowa Caucuses.
"They're poison the very spirit of America and keep us from being one nation under God," he said of Obama.
"I watched a president that has become the great divider, the great complainer, the great excuse giver, the great blamer," Romney added. "I want to have an America that comes together. I'm an optimist. I believe in the future of America. I'm not a pessimist. I believe that this country can be as it's always been — a shining city on a hill."
UPDATE: A Romney aide later told reporters that Romney was referring to the nomination when he said "we're going to win this thing."
But the context, above, appears to imply that he was referring to the Iowa Caucuses.
Romney's remarks came hours after adviser Eric Fehrnstrom sought to downplay expectations, telling reporters that the nomination battle would likely continue into the spring, and that a second place finish would be a good outcome.
Now Romney has raised the bar, and he has 24 hours to try to clear it.