John Podhoretz correctly notes that Mitt and Rudy are the only candidates with a viable path to the nomination. But I don’t really buy his argument that Giuliani is better-positioned for victory:
In all three states where Romney is leading, he is facing distinct challenges. Huckabee is gaining on him in Iowa. McCain has advanced in New Hampshire even as Giuliani has faded some. And he is in a statistical dead heat in South Carolina with Giuliani and Thompson.
Under these conditions, Romney might win in all three, but do so in a less than commanding fashion that allows the media to focus attention on those who come in second – Huckabee, McCain, and even Giuliani. After all, the only time a win isn’t a win is in primary politics. (Quick – which Democrat won New Hampshire in 1992? No, it wasn’t Bill Clinton, the self-declared “Comeback Kid.” It was Paul Tsongas.)
Meanwhile, Giuliani still leads by an average of 16 points in Florida. If he wins there, he erases every advantage Romney might have attained, including a delegate lead. And heads into the big primary as the name in the headlines.
Frankly, I just don’t think the second-place finishers are going to matter that much. I think we political junkies have a tendency to underestimate how much Romney’s early success is going to surprise normal people who don’t check the RealClearPolitics poll averages every day. Floridians aren’t used to living in an early primary state, and thus aren’t in the habit of paying attention this long before the election. Romney’s place in the January news cycle is going to be worth quite a bit of momentum. Giuliani can overcome this, especially with a New Hampshire upset, but right now I’d rather be in Romney’s position.
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