or months the Romney folks said : “National polls don’t matter. There is no national primary. Look at the early state polls.” I still don’t know whether they were right then or should be pleased now but the situation is in some respects reversed for their campaign from six or twelve months ago. In the RCP national averages
Romney is in third, his best standing ever and within single digits of Giuliani who barely holds on for the lead. If you look at the trends in the chart
Rudy and Thompson are heading down while Romney and Huckabee are headed up. If you think national polls really do mean something after all then there is some evidence that we are heading for a Huckabee vs. Romney face off. But what about the early state theory? For months Romney held commanding leads in NH and Iowa. Now, if we look at Iowa Huckabee is up 5.5 points in the RCP averge
although the trends show narrowing between Romney and Huckabee. Others are so far behind the order of finish may be irrelevent. In New Hampshire Romney is 11 pts up but the chart
shows McCain making a striking run and beginning to narrow the gap. Again, others (including a sliding Rudy) lag far behind. Moving on to South Carolina
, Huckabee leads by almost 7 pts in RCP and again his trend is up, up, up. Romney has had an uptick and the others lag. So what’s it all mean? If Romney loses in Iowa and NH do the national poll numbers mean anything? If Romney pulls out Iowa and NH he’s in good shape, if not, he may be out (figuratively only since his money will last forever). If McCain beats expectations in Iowa and wins NH he may be the man to beat. If Huckabee wins Iowa, places well in NH and wins SC he’s going to be hard to beat. Rudy? Chaos, divison and mixed results are his best shot –along with the hope that Huckaboom fades and security reemerges as a top concern. His best result may be Huckabee winning big in Iowa, Romney knocking out McCain in NH although not impressively, a close race in SC and a general sense that among those heading into Florida and February 5 none but he has foreign policy chops to deal with the world’s bad guys. That may be the proverbial inside straight. For now, watch the NH poll numbers because that state will either save Romney, give McCain his lift, keep Huckabee in play, doom Rudy — or maybe some combination of these. After awhile it’s like figuring out the wildcard playoff spots ( If Cleveland loses to Minnesota, but Green Bay beats Dallas…).