COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa -- Shifting his Iowa campaign into a more aggressive final phase, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is launching his first TV ads in the state with a spot in which he declares, "I've learned something about how it is that economies grow."
"The right answer for America is to stop the growth of the federal government and to start the growth of the private sector," Romney says in the 30-second spot set to run Friday.
The former Massachusetts governor's decision to start spending money on paid advertising in Iowa five weeks before the Jan. 3 caucuses signals a belief that he can fare well in Iowa even though the state tripped up his 2008 bid.
The move comes as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has emerged as the chief GOP challenger to Romney nationally and in Iowa.
In the spot, which is also set to run in New Hampshire, Romney emphasizes his private-sector experience and casts himself as a can-do candidate on voters' top issue, the economy.
"We're not going to balance the budget just by pretending that all they have to do is take out the waste," he says in the ad, which was provided to The Associated Press. "We're going to have to cut spending. And I'm in favor of cutting spending, capping federal spending as a percentage of GDP at 20 percent or less, and having a balanced budget amendment."
The ad underscores Romney's late fall ramp-up in Iowa, which he has visited more frequently in recent weeks after traveling to the state only twice in the first eight months of the year. He kept a lower profile this year in Iowa than four years ago, in part to control expectations.
While advisers say Romney's increasing Iowa presence is part of a long-planned effort to surge heading into the must-win New Hampshire primary, the ad and a more aggressive December campaign schedule in Iowa come as the race for the caucuses has remained fluid.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and businessman Herman Cain have all risen to join Romney as an Iowa favorite, but they have been unable to sustain the support. In recent weeks, Gingrich has seen a burst of momentum, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul's support has also risen.
Romney's Iowa ad is similar in tone as the second ad he released in New Hampshire, a positive spot also highlighting his budget plan. The ads differ sharply from Romney's first New Hampshire ad, which took a quote from Democratic President Barack Obama out of context, prompting sharp criticism from Democrats.
"In the closing weeks before the caucuses, we will continue to make the case that Mitt Romney is the best candidate to beat Barack Obama," Romney's senior Iowa consultant David Kochel said in a statement to The Associated Press. "Going on television is just another tool in getting Mitt Romney's message out that Barack Obama has failed as a president, and that he is the best choice to grow the economy, cut spending and create jobs."
In addition to accepting invitations to Iowa's Dec. 10 and 15 debates, Romney also dispatched his son Josh to Iowa and is sending New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to campaign in the state next week.
While a segment of Iowa's influential social conservatives grew wary of Romney's changed positions on social issues four years ago, he has quietly reached out this time to business and fiscal conservatives, forming coalitions with chambers of commerce members and the state's booming agribusiness community.