Romney In Trouble In Iowa?

Mitt Romney's strategy for winning the Republican nomination begins with winning Iowa, and pretty much ends if he doesn't. Until recently he was dominating the polls there -- although, as I've previously noted, he's never pulled a real powerhouse percentage, even with Giuliani, McCain, and Fred Thompson largely skipping the state.

I have also posited that the Republican race really started fresh a few weeks ago, with the settling of the "real" field of candidates. No more waiting on Fred T. and Newt G.; no more pondering which second-tier candidate would prove viable. One of the following Fab Five will be the nominee: Giuliani, McCain, Romney, Thompson, or Huckabee. Now, people can start picking from that bunch.

With the menu in front of them, Iowa Republicans don't seem to be choosing Mitt. Two new polls from Strategic Vision and the New York Times now show Hustlin' Mike Huckabee surging in Iowa, trailing Romney 30%-19% or 27%-21%, depending on your choice of polls. Huckabee's supporters are also more solid in their decision, with Romney's more apt to say they may yet change their minds. And on top of that, Political Wire reports that "a poll coming tomorrow confirms the trend and shows the former Arkansas governor with a real chance at winning the Iowa caucuses."

Huckabee's charge has forced Romney to start treating him as a genuine candidate and real threat; Mitt's reportedly begun blasting him in Iowa over illegal immigration.

It's also forcing a re-calculation by the Giuliani people, who were fine writing off a Hawkeye State loss to Romney, but aren't so sure they can afford to finish third, or quite possibly lower. So, America's Mayor is beginning to re-engage in Iowa. That's more trouble for Mitt. (Giuliani is also launching a major NH TV ad buy, which you'll get to see on your local Boston stations -- lucky you.)

On the plus side for Romney, winning a hard-fought race there would help him even more than winning a gimme. But he's got to win it.

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