Instead, McCain focused on New Hampshire, second on the calendar, while Giuliani employed an untested strategy of waiting out the early primary contests and instead staking his candidacy on a strong showing in the Jan. 29 Florida primary.
Romney's goal was to score back-to-back wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, clearing the field and creating momentum to roll through Florida — where he enjoyed the support of top aides to former Gov. Jeb Bush — and seal the nomination in the Super Tuesday contests.
Instead, Romney was beaten Jan. 3 in Iowa by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist minister who received an unexpected outpouring of support in the caucuses from voters identifying themselves as evangelicals.
Five days later, Romney suffered a second consecutive defeat in New Hampshire, when McCain won the primary in part with the support of independents attracted to his self-styled maverick campaign.
Romney, who headed the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, tried to cast each defeat in competitive terms, saying his second-place finishes amount to "silver medals." He also highlighted the "gold" he won in between and in the little-watched Wyoming caucuses.
Nonetheless, Romney took a cue from Huckabee's win, as well as Democrat Barack Obama's Iowa upset of rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, as a sign voters wanted change in Washington.
On the stump, he retooled his speech to harken back to the theme he broached in Dearborn, that America's future, and that of its government, were dependent on innovation. His campaign also hung new banners reading, "Washington is Broken," as well as a to-do list Romney would complete as president.
Romney and McCain went head-to-head in the Jan. 13 Michigan primary, and Romney won, in part by highlighting his background as a business consultant and venture capitalist. When McCain acknowledged what seemed to be obvious, that not all of Detroit's lost auto industry jobs would be recovered, Romney pounced.