First, to date, I think the current game plan has to be given an A +. It has worked almost perfectly and has achieved its objective of clearly establishing Romney as the frontrunner while avoiding attacks on GOP competitors and singularly concentrating on Obama and the economy. Romney has stayed on message while subtly adjusting his persona to a more relaxed and " laid back" style.
Mitt has effectively accomplished a goal of eliminating potential competitors, directly or indirectly, like Huckabee, Thune, Daniels, Trump and now Pawlenty. He has effectively marginalized moderate competitors like Cain and Gingrich and Huntsman.
Mitt has also clearly achieved a goal of indirectly encouraging more conservative, right of center candidates to enter the race like Bachmann, Perry and Santorum creating a trifecta that ensures a 2 or 3 way split among conservatives in early primary states like Iowa , New Hampshire and S. Carolina. A Palin entry, unlikely, but possible, would only fuel this conservative alternative and play directly into Romney's game plan by further splitting the opposition into , maybe , 4 parts. However, there are some portents that are not so auspicious. To wit
1. It is possible that Guiliani could be a front in N. Hampshire for Perry. A Rudy entrance would add real competition in The Granite State forcing Mitt to spend even more time there to his detriment elsewhere. Perry could concentrate, as he will , on Iowa and S. Carolina. With proportional delegate allocation, Rudy could drain off some potential delegates. Then drop out of the race and endorse Perry. Remember the Huckabee-McCain drill in West Virginia ? Same Rope -a-Dope with Perry and his bud, Rudy.
2. Now, the big concern. Iowa. It is fine to skip the straw poll. The outcome , as I discussed above, was a big plus for Mitt. But, what is the strategy ? Iowa will suck up the media with a Bachmann- Perry slugfest. N.Hampshire, even with a Guiliani entrance, will be on the second burner, a presumed Romney win. But Iowa's Governor has warned Mitt to not avoid Iowa, at his risk............And he is totally correct !!!! Romney and the circumstances have combined to create a perfect storm where the so- con conservative bloc is drained by both the fratricidal Bachmann-Perry contest but by the Paul energy drain as well. It is a PERFECT opportunity for a Romney position that goes against the prevailing media expectation and pulls off an early, GAME WINNING victory. An early Romney surprise, coupled with N. Hampshire would provide critical momentum in S. Carolina and effectively put the game on ice early.
A major Romney play in Iowa would not be to the benefit of the media. They have NO interest in an early decision. It doesn't sell Viagra and it certainly would not benefit Obama. They are TOTALLY committed, across the board, from FOX to MSNBC to ensuring this does NOT happen and that Bachmann.....or Perry......or Christie.......or Ryan......or Trump.....or Palin or anybody is always just around the corner to challenge Romney, so that the outcome, ideally , is not determined until TAMPA and the candidate is exhausted by the campaign and debilitated going in to the fall campaign.
But, my point of concern is......WHAT IS MITT'S GAME PLAN in IOWA ? If he ignores the state, keeps his state staff at a low level, frustrates his many supporters, lets a natural ally like the Governor trail off into the sunset or, worse, endorse Perry or Bachmann, he risks a disastrous and critical loss of early momentum. If he ignores IOWA, he will be negatively visible by his daily media absence. The media will directly or indirectly highlight his absence in every story coming out of Iowa. By not competing in Iowa he puts at risk N. Hampshire and S. Carolina and his entire game plan.
In my opinion, ROMNEY MUST GO FULL OUT IN IOWA, starting on Labor Day.His schedule should be 35 % Iowa, 25 % N.Hampshire and 40 % elsewhere, principally S. Carolina and Florida.
Now, maybe that is his game plan. I'm not sure. But his staffing and schedule commitments in Iowa are not so obvious as yet. I hope it is his plan........because to WIN, it must be
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