Noam Scheiber’s “The Stump” blog at The New Republic echoes an observation noted in our staff post a week ago — that Mitt Romney’s campaign is gathering some serious momentum, as indicated by recent polls in NH, IA and SC. Scheiber has the numbers, and it looks like Iowa is Romney’s to lose, with a 14 point lead. He also has a 7.4 percent lead in New Hampshire and is gaining in South Carolina.
His growing lead is not as deep or broad as Senator Clinton’s Democratic numbers, and may have more to do with his well-timed ad buys, as John B. Judis has suggested:
Romney, on the other hand, continues to run strongly in the first three states, including South Carolina. In the American Research Group polls, Romney leads Huckabee by 27 to 19 percent in Iowa, he leads Giuliani by 30 to 23 percent in New Hampshire, and leads Giuliani by 29 to 23 percent in South Carolina. If Romney can win these states and Michigan, which also votes early, he could get a boost that would allow him to defeat Giuliani in the South and to compete with him in the big states in the West, Middle West and Northeast.
The question about Romney is how much his current popularity depends on an extensive ad campaigns that he has been running. Will his popularity hold up once the other candidates begin competing on the airwaves? According to polls, Romney’s support is far from solid. In the Marist poll in New Hampshire of likely voters, only 37 percent of Romney’s supporters back him “strongly.” By comparison, 48 percent of Giuliani’s supporters, and 56 percent of McCain’s are strong backers.
Romney would bring some significant negatives as a nominee, including his flip-flopping track record — you can almost see the ‘weather vane’ ads. However, Romney, a cum laude grad of Harvard Law and a top 5 percent grad of the Harvard Biz School, has a lot of experience dealing with progressives. He may be the shrewdest strategist of the comparatively weak GOP field, having been elected Governor of Massachusetts as a Mormon and Republican and spearheaded Massachusetts’ health care reform legislation. His sneering reference to New York as a ‘sanctuary city’ suggests he intends to use immigration as a wedge issue to win support from swing voters. Although Clinton still polls well against Romney, his campaign clearly knows how to push polls and deploy campaign resources. Whoever we nominate, I would prefer any other Republican opponent.