Free advice to Mitt
Huckabee’s rise in polls of Iowans may be just what the doctor ordered for Romney, in similar fashion to how Obama’s rise among Iowan Democrats benefits Hillary: in both cases expectations are helpfully adjusted downwards. It would probably be disastrous for Romney were he to lose by eight or nine points to Huckabee in Iowa if that’s not what the polls are predicting. But should Romney enter Iowa with the polls predicting a second place finish to Huckabee, the latter’s victory wouldn’t necessarily cause the Mittster huge problems.
My advice to Romney: ratchet up the TV spots in Iowa emphasizing your record for fiscal conservatism and your (new) hardline approach to immigration. The spots will be designed to hit Huckabee in his vulnerable areas, but don’t mention him by name (you might need him as a running mate, after all, and you don’t want to stoke up any more anti-Mormon animus amongst the fundies than you’re already dealing with). You might also want to consider tying your expertise in venture capital and business creation with a pitch to Iowans focusing on energy independence. Huck can’t match your new economy leadership bonafides. Also, don’t be afraid to feature your lovely, all-American looking family in your spots. Do your best to whittle Huck’s lead down as much as possible in Iowa. If you manage to prevail, Huck’s done. If you manage merely to exceed expectations, you’re still in pretty good shape. Meanwhile, starting in, say, mid-December, absolutely UNLOAD on Giuliani with negative ads in the NH/Boston media market. Focus on Kerrik and mistressgate. Make SURE you dispatch Rudy at the time of the NH primary. You can’t waste the opportunity to hit your most dangerous competitor hard in a battlefield where you have a decisive advantage: after all, the inevitable “back at ya” attacks Rudy will mount won’t be as effective as yours, because it won’t be possible for him to paint horns on you to voters (including lots of ex-Bay Staters) who feel they already know you quite well. Anyway, a (say) fourth or fifth place finish in Iowa for Rudy followed by a (say) third or fourth place finish in NH basically ends the New Yorker’s campaign, and effectively means its you against Huck for the nomination.