Romney gains major traction in Iowa

Mitt Romney appears to be making major strides in Iowa, where the “kick-off” in the presidential sweepstakes will occur. As Chris Cillizza reports, two Iowa polls released last week contain good news for Romney. A Des Moines Register poll of likely caucus participants has Romney in front with 30 percent compared to 18 percent for McCain and 17 percent for Giuliani. A poll of “likely voters who vote regularly in state elections” conducted for a Des Moines television station showed essentially a three way tie.
One can observe a parallel phenomenon on the Democratic side, where the Des Moines Register poll has John Edwards leading the pack with 29 percent, followed by Obama at 23 percent and Clinton at 21. In both cases, the candidate thought to be running third nationally, and the candidate running the least “centrist” campaign, appears to be thriving.
Iowa tends to serve as a “play-in” contest for candidates like this. Its caucus tells us whether a non-frontrunner (often with a strong base-oriented message) is a genuine contender. If the answer is yes, then become serious players in New Hampshire and, given a good showing there, beyond.
Cillizza is may be right when he says that “a win in Iowa isn’t necessary for Romney to wind up as the Republican nominee,” and the same is probably true for Edwards. But Iowa does represent the best chance for both to play their way into serious contention.
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