Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is accelerating his campaign beyond the stately pace that he has maintained for many months, an indication that he believes he can't afford to hold back and wait for his rivals to self-destruct.
With the Iowa caucuses less than two weeks away and the New Hampshire primary less than three weeks off, Romney has been granting an ever-larger number of media interviews, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads, engaging his rivals, and actually making news. He is also campaigning on a more intense personal schedule, including an ongoing bus tour of New Hampshire.
Yesterday, Romney said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, one of his major opponents, is complaining too much about attacks against him. "This is politics, and if you can't stand the heat in this little kitchen, wait until the Obama Hell's Kitchen turns up the heat," Romney told Fox News. "This is a time when we have to be able to stand up, defend ourselves."
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, tried to counter his own critics who say he has been too gentlemanly and laid back. "If I have to be tough, and I have in the debates, I'm willing to be tough," he said. "But I'm not willing to be a bomb thrower or to go over the top and say outrageous or outlandish things or incendiary things simply for the purpose of getting people excited. I'm hoping to become president of the United States, not a talk show host."
Romney is also stepping up his campaigning in New Hampshire, considered a must-win for him because he is so familiar to voters there as the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts. He has been ahead in the polls in New Hampshire for many weeks, and he wants to show that he will fight for every vote.
For most of the current campaign, Romney had been content to stay above the fray, talk about his agenda, and criticize President Obama. In the meantime, several of his opponents rose and fell in the polls, including Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, businessman Herman Cain, and Gingrich. Romney has maintained about 25 percent support among GOP voters.
But Romney strategists acknowledge that the Republican electorate is volatile and he can't appear to be taking anything or anyone for granted.