In a CNN Republican debate in October, Mitt Romney put his hand on the shoulder of Texas governor Rick Perry and said, “I know you’ve had a tough couple of debates.” This moment came during a testy exchange between the two over immigration, when Perry wouldn’t let Romney answer a question that Perry posed.
Last week, there was no one around, at least from what the average voter could see, to put his or her hand on Romney, suggesting that his week wasn’t going according to plan either. But clearly Romney had the toughest week to his campaign in a while, as momentum has left the Romney camp, at least for the time being.
In advance of the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd, Chris Christie is making a stop in Iowa on Wednesday, on behalf of Mitt Romney. And while most campaigns concede that voters generally support a candidate, not a surrogate, this campaign trip could be crucial to Romney’s chances in 2012.
The Romney campaign has largely played it safe in Iowa; it had left it for the lower teir candidates to battle it out for relevancy.
That all changed in the past two weeks, with the Herman Cain announcement on Saturday, the Manchester Union Leader endorsement of Newt Gingrich and poll numbers that show a once insurmountable lead in New Hampshire dwindling, with a clear challenger, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, on the scene.
The Romney campaign never figured to win Iowa, and many have argued the relevancy of the caucuses in the nomination process anyway. The Iowa caucuses do provide an opportunity for a floundering or fledgling campaign to get off the ground, like it did for Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in 2008, and maybe not much else.
What happened in 2008, was Romney was harmed by his finish in Iowa, and knocked out by the loss to McCain in the New Hampshire primary.
With Herman Cain in the picture, Romney stood a good chance of finishing second, or worse case, a close third in Iowa, and that has all changed. The problem for Romney now is to slow down the Gingrinch momentum, while not allowing Ron Paul to gain traction in Iowa. This conclusion was borne out with the recent release of a Des Moines Register poll that showed Gingrich on top with 25 percent support, followed by Paul at 18 percent, with Romney third by 16 percent.
A third place finish by Romney in Iowa won’t be fatal, but if Romney loses the New Hampshire primary, his 2012 campaign could be over. After New Hampshire, then comes South Carolina and Florida. In both states, Gingrich is polling very well.
Back to Christie, it appears the New Jersey governor appears to have credbility with Iowans.
Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register wrote last week, “in May, a team of seven Iowans traveled to the New Jersey governor’s mansion to try to recruit him to run. Christie agreed to talk with the Iowans over dinner, but in early October, he ended months of buzz by declaring with finality that he wouldn’t enter the 2012 race.”
If Christie can transfer his apparent conservative credibility to Romney in Iowa, he will have saved the campaign.