By most measures, he's getting a good reception in Iowa. The latest poll of Iowa Republicans shows him doubling his support in Iowa in the past month.
While he's still in fourth place, behind Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Newt Gingrich, he has the potential to move up fast. Gingrich may not run and won't decide until after Labor Day. McCain has his own troubles with conservatives. Giuliani hasn't campaigned in Iowa, and his position on social issues is too liberal for many GOP activists to stomach.
Given all that, Romney's in a position to engineer a first- or second-place showing in Iowa next year. But as he rises in the polls, the attacks and criticisms have increased, too.
What's prompted some Iowa Republicans to look past all that is the fact that Romney's not a career politician. He was a successful investor and was the turnaround CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympics before winning the governorship. The bipartisan health-care plan he helped craft with Democrats in Massachusetts is an idea being studied by other states, including Iowa.
"Washington isn't going to change if we always elect politicians to run. My life has been in the private sector. My record has shown I can get the job done, that I can work across the aisle," he said.
He says his experience working with Democrats in that heavily Democratic state "is good experience for Washington. No one party should try and jam through its agenda on the other. We're going to have to work together to find common ground. We did it, in some cases, in Massachusetts, and that's what Washington needs," Romney said.
Despite the divisive social issues, that sort of pragmatic, nonideological approach has a lot of appeal to mainstream voters looking for a new kind of politics these days.