I’ve been analyzing Mitt Romney’s chances for the Republican nomination based on the “early state strategy” his campaign put forth. Their concept was to win Iowa and New Hampshire, and gain enough favorable press coverage from those wins to vault him into contention nationally (where he languished in the low doubled digits at the time). Now that he lost Iowa badly and seems poised to lose New Hampshire as well, sources in the Romney campaign advise me the old strategy is no longer their model.
My first reaction was to recall Nixon Press Secretary Ron Ziegler’s famous words, “That statement is no longer operable.” [Insert your own gratuitous slap here].
On reflection, though, they have some logic in their argument. The original plan was designed to combat a dominant Rudy Giuliani, whose national support was in the upper 30s at the time. The early splash would be needed to position Romney to compete with him later. Facts on the ground changed, though: Rudy’s support has steadily eroded to the point he is no longer a clear frontrunner. Any of the top five might conceivably win the nomination at this point, so Iowa and New Hampshire aren’t the “must-win” contests they were in the older scenario.
I agree Romney’s not out of it. In a race with six (including Paul) significant contenders, a candidate can stay viable with less impressive results than if it had become a two-man race early, and it’s foolhardy to count out a guy with $250 million in the bank in what might boil down to a spending contest. Still, you can only move the goalposts downfield so many times . . .