suggests Thompson may not be serious about New Hampshire and may not return for further campaigning until October. That raises an interesting question as to where Thompson is going to get his foothold in the early primaries. He spent time this week in Iowa and does have paid staff there but can he really make a dent in Romney’s operation there? If he stays and fights but comes in behind Huckabee, does he lose the aura of a first tier contender? Assuming Iowa is out of reach and he makes little play for New Hampshire that makes Michigan and South Carolina key. Again, he lacks boots on the ground in these two states, although he does have the support in South Carolina of Rep. Gresham Barrett. An initial schedule snafu
in South Carolina serves to remind that even in a small state you need solid local staff. Keep in mind that South Carolina is a changed state with population boom in the coastal areas like Myrtle Beach where Giuliani has been a frequent and popular visitor.
As for McCain, he has a new opening and it goes through New Hampshire. A strong debate has reinvigorated him and his role in the Iraq debate and No Surrender Tour will give him high visibility in the next week or so. A first or second place in New Hampshire gives him momentum going into Michigan, site of another 2000 primary victory, where he does have a solid organization
And where is Rudy this weekend? Florida, where he hopes to block his opponents’ momentum from possible early primary wins and where the winner take all rules could give the delegate lead heading into February 5.
As for Romney, five stops today in Iowa tell us he is leaving nothing to chance there. As his opponents go up on the air there and in early states we’ll see if his poll numbers come down. His opponents call his poll numbers “inflated” by early ad buys; his team thinks he’s earned his numbers through constant visits and retail politics. We’ll see who’s right.
UPDATE: And David Broder is praising
McCain while warning Thompson. Romney spokesman Kevin Madden reports that Romney drew 300 people at their Clay County event. This would be bigger than either of the Thompson crowds on his opening day although Thompson had the disadvantage of “opening” on a weekday. Still, it’s hard to believe there are many Iowa Republicans who haven’t seen Romney at this point.