Republicans: No one expects Romney to win Iowa anymore; is that good for his campaign?

Rasmussen released a new GOP Iowa poll today, and it shows how massive Huckabee's lead has become:

  • Huckabee gets 39%, followed by Mitt Romney at 23%.
  • Everyone else is in single-digits: Giuliani and Thompson are at 8%, McCain is at 6% and Ron Paul has 5%. Tancredo comes in at 3% and Hunter at 1%. That's right, there is a 7% difference between the third candidate and Duncan Hunter.
The Iowa race has essentially become a showdown between Romney and Huckabee. And remember: the Newsweek poll that came out over the week-end that had Huckabee had 39% was a huge shocker. Now, Huckabee's win seems to all to be assured.

Two weeks ago, Rasmussen's Iowa poll was the first to show Huckabee leading, 28% to 25%... What a difference two weeks has made. But notice that Romney has hardly slided since then. Huckabee's surge has come at the expense of Giuliani and Thompson.

This leads to an obvious question: What will happen to Romney's campaign if Huckabee demolishes the field in Iowa like this? The CW had long dictated that Romney would collapse in New Hampshire if he did not win Iowa. But that was when expectations were that he would win. If Romney holds on to a strong second place (read: around 25%) and far outpaces Thompson and Giuliani, will that not give him a sufficient place in the storyline to hold on in New Hampshire where his main competitors are Giuliani and McCain?

If this lowering of expectations saves Romney, I admit it would be very unfair: He has spent millions and millions here compared to what Huckabee has spent. He has been running ads for months. Losing should be a huge debacle for him; but that's not how politics works, and if the results resemble these Rasmussen numbers the race might very well develop into a Huckabee-Romney showdown in which all other candidates would be marginalized.

And Romney got some amazingly great news today: He was endorsed by the National Review, the standard of conservatism journalism.

The endorsement piece addresses some of the concerns people have about Romney, so it is definitely an interesting read. Their basic justification is that Romney is a "viable conservative" (a shot at Mike Huckabee, thus deemed unviable):

Our guiding principle has always been to select the most conservative viable candidate. In our judgment, that candidate is Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. Unlike some other candidates in the race, Romney is a full-spectrum conservative: a supporter of free-market economics and limited government, moral causes such as the right to life and the preservation of marriage, and a foreign policy based on the national interest.

You can be sure the Romney camp will milk this as much as they can in Iowa and New Hampshire, with one goal in mind: Secure a strong showing in Iowa since first-place seems increasingly out of reach, and then hold on in New Hampshire.

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