Despite Herman Cain's recent rise to near the top of the polls and Rick Perry's Tea Party appeal, Mitt Romney remains for many a safe bet to win the Republican nomination to take on President Barack Obama in the 2012 general election. The most efficient way to get there is for Romney (or any candidate) to score victories in early contests, especially in the first of the long campaign, the Iowa caucuses.

With no strong Iowa candidate already emerging -- and, Politico notes, with evangelical and social conservative votes being split between Perry, Michele Bachmann and other candidates -- Romney seems to have a path to securing this early and important victory. Wednesday morning, he made it clear to potential voters in Sioux City, Iowa he wanted their support, and the support of the state.

I want to get the support of Iowans, the Sioux City Journal reported him saying. I am in Iowa, this is not my first trip to Iowa, as you know. I will be here again and again, campaigning here.

Unlike some candidates -- including the 2007 version of Romney running for the chance to replace President George W. Bush -- 2011 Romney's strategy doesn't seem to involve pandering or focusing solely on Iowa-only issues, Politico reported. Romney even took a moderate stance on abortion in the traditionally socially conservative state, saying that he did not favor a constitutional amendement banning abortion nationally and that he wants to let the states create their own legislation with regard to life, Politico reported.

As of right now, the Christian Science Monitor reported, Romney is second in Iowa only to Cain, who is still riding his recent surge. The CSM also reported that at least one local expert thinks Romney stands a good chance of taking the prize he couldn't in 2008 despite spending considerable time and money.

I think Romney has a good chance at winning the Iowa caucuses, says Dianne Bystrom, a political scientist at Iowa State University, to the CSM.

So who, then still has a chance of standing in his way? And who else could still claim some level of victory in Iowa even if they don't take the number one spot after all of the meetings and lining up is done?

Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin noted that Bachmann, who was leading the state earlier this year and won the Ames Straw Poll, has fallen so far back that to even finish in the top 3 could be considered a comeback and provide her with a boost heading into the New Hampshire primary and further into the process.

Cain, according to the CSM, may not be able to keep his momentum going in the state because of a lack of organization.

Romney also doesn't have extensive organization, but the CSM reports that many think the vestiges of his huge operation from four years ago remain.

Last time it was a huge organization in Iowa, Connie Schmett, a Republican activist in suburban Des Moines who organized for Romney last time, said to the CSM. He doesn't have that this time. But I would say none of his supporters have left him.