By Niall Stanage - 01/03/12 03:45 PM EST
DES MOINES, Iowa — A relaxed Mitt Romney quoted from “America the Beautiful” and projected confidence Tuesday in one of his final appearances before tonight’s Iowa caucuses.
Leaving no stone unturned in his appeal to the patriotism of Iowan voters, Romney quoted three verses of “America the Beautiful,” which he described as "one of the hymns that I love."
Polls show Romney is in a tight three-way race with Texas Rep. Ron Paul and a surging Rick Santorum. A win in Iowa could help Romney close out the GOP nomination fight quickly given his lead in polls in New Hampshire, which will hold its primary next week.
A third-place finish, however, could be embarrassing for a candidate who has made a strong bid to win Iowa in the last week.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who introduced Romney at the Tuesday event, projected an air of confidence similar to that of the candidate.
"I feel very good" about Romney's chances, he told The Hill. "I think it is going to be a good night tonight and that is going to lay the foundation for the days to come."
Thune seemed to downplay the significance of Santorum's late rise in the polls, implying that it was a localized phenomenon rather than anything the Romney campaign had to worry about on a national basis.
"I think that's expected here," Thune said of Santorum's apparent surge, "and I expect him to do well here. But I think Gov. Romney is going to do well here and it is going to pave the way for New Hampshire, South Carolina and the states that follow."
Romney was dressed in a blue sweater and jeans, and accompanied by his wife, Ann, and several of the couple's children.
Former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) was also in attendance, as was Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), whom Romney thanked for having "lined up some 47 different Congresspeople" to endorse him.
Not for the first time, representatives of the media outnumbered the members of the public in attendance. TV cameramen, photographers and reporters filled three sides of a large room in a historic building in downtown Des Moines. A relatively modest number of Romney supporters — perhaps 100 — were seated in the center of the room.
Romney's status as the media favorite of the moment was underlined by the presence of big names like Andrea Mitchell of NBC News and Judy Woodruff of PBS. But as the campaign grows in size, the media also gets less opportunity to interact informally with the candidate. Separate entrances were provided for the public and media at this event, and Romney took no questions from either group.
Instead, he hued close to his standard stump speech, condemning President Obama for trying to "substitute envy for ambition" in American society and wanting to "transform" America. What was needed, Romney said, was not a transformation but an effort to "restore" the nation's traditional values.
During her brief remarks, Ann Romney spoke of the importance of the example set by her husband's father, George Romney.
"We would never be on this path if it was not for George Romney," she said. "He is the one whose shoulders we're standing on today."
George Romney was a popular governor of Michigan, but is best remembered nationally for the implosion of his 1968 presidential campaign after he said in an interview that he had suffered a "brainwashing" by U.S. officials during a congressional trip to Vietnam.