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As The Campaign Turns

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Mitt Romney was on the program yesterday, and here is his take on Michigan’s move of their primary to January 15:

HH: Let’s close with a couple of political questions, Governor Romney. Michigan just leapfrogged over Florida. I don’t know if you welcome that as a native of Michigan, or if it’s just more chaos in your planning, because you had a schedule, and now it’s all broken up. What is your reaction to the Michigan move? 

MR: Well, you know, I’ve learned not to react too much to things I can’t control, and so that the dates of primary states are one of those things. Michigan is a very good state for me, because my Dad was governor there three terms, I was born there, and I love the automobile world, and I love the auto industry, and I’m going to work hard to try and preserve that industry in this country. It’s also good to me in the polls right now. The most recent poll has me with a very strong leader over number two in Michigan, so I’ve got a good lead in Iowa, a good lead in New Hampshire, a good lead in Michigan. If I could maintain those leads, why, that’d be a pretty darn good start. 

Michigan’s move of course means that New Hampshire will almost certainly push its primary to Tuesday, January 8, and Iowa its caucuses to Thursday, January 3.

Romney’s plan is to score the hat-trick, and to do so in three states crucial to GOP success against Hillary.  Fred Thompson will hopoe that the South Carolina primaries on Saturday, January 19 can be won and will provide a firebreak in Romney’s march to the nomination (despite Romney’s showing in the Nevada caucuses that same day), and Rudy will hope to use a Fred win in the south to allow Florida voters time to rethink and vote for him on Tuesday, January 29, thus setting up the big showdown on February 5 with the primary in California being the decisive contest where the mayor hoopes his national name ID trumps the traditionally conservative primary habits of the Golden State’s GOP.

John Podhoretz today writes off Romney’s strategy:

Thompson wrote off the early primary state of New Hampshire this week by refusing to attend the GOP debate there on Wednesday night in favor of a Jay Leno booking. And he doesn’t seem to be making an effort in the early caucus state of Iowa.

He’s effectively ceded those two to Mitt Romney, the rich-guy candidate whose canny strategy is pretty much to buy victories in those states and hope that the resulting publicity will catapult him into the lead.

But John isn’t thinking like a GOP primary voter.  Does he really believe that wins in one purple state (Iowa) and two blue states (New Hampshire and Michigan) won’t fundamentally overturn everyone’s perception of the race? 

To win in ’08, the Dems will need to get one or more states President Bush won in ’04, and the best bets for Hillary are Ohio, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Nevada, and Virginia –in roughly that order of probability.

The GOP nominee will try to build on Bush’s map –or offset losses– from among Kerry’s states that year –and his best bets will be Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and New Hampshire.

Thus ten states are going to be the key campaigning ground in 2008.Four of the ten are those which Romney is aiming to win by January 20, two of which –Michigan and New Hampshire– went for Kerry in ’04.

Does John, or any other pundit believe the road to the White House will be easier for a nominee who lost in all or even two of those four states?

I wrote in A Mormon In The White House how the calendar was shaping up to favor a Romney candidacy, and that trend has held in the six months since publication. 

The narrowing of the field between now and Iowa’s vote will also allow for a much sharper focus on Romney that will close the gap he sees in the national name ID polling.  His financial resources and fund-raising effort will keep him competitive through the expensive month of January and capable of turning out ads in California that feature his wins in these early contests in states crucial to success in ’08.

In short, if you had to bet the house on the GOP nominee today, you’d bet on Romney.

Which is why I expect Fred and Rudy to change from the Fabian strategy and fight hard in Michigan, making it the decisive contest of this cycle.  You can’t win by losing, and the ability to win a big blue state (pardon the pun) means a great deal to a GOP worried about the approach of President Hillary.


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