Events are working in his favor. Newt Gingrich is falling under the weight of attacks. In Iowa at least, it appears that Ron Paul is rising. Romney couldn’t be happier with that combination, as was evident when he appeared on “Fox and Friends” on Wednesday morning.
He admonished Gingrich for complaining about the negative ads raining down in Iowa and praised Paul for running an effective campaign. He knows that the congressman has virtually no chance of winning the nomination but can potentially serve as a blocking back in his own effort to defeat more-threatening rivals.
Romney rolled through this southwestern New Hampshire town early Wednesday on the opening leg of a bus tour that will take him to far-flung corners of the Granite State before a Christmas break. At a restaurant stop, he sought to highlight his ability to attract broad support by appearing with New Hampshire Republicans, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Rep. Charles F. Bass, former governor and senator Judd Gregg, and Jennifer Horn, a tea party leader who announced her endorsement.
There is an air of confidence around Romney right now, although his advisers take little for granted. This week’s bus tour is called “Earn It.” Some GOP strategists think the former Massachusetts governor learned from his first presidential campaign that he must make the sale when it counts, which is now.
His schedule is in flux, but only because he is attempting to maximize all opportunities. He hopes to take advantage of what now looks like a totally unpredictable environment in Iowa, but he knows better than to neglect New Hampshire, which he needs more than any other state to win the nomination.
The past 10 days have been very good for Romney. Each day showed a campaign speeding toward the new year with a game plan in place and the resources to implement it.
He began last week with a series of interviews with news organizations. He knew he would be asked about two things: Gingrich’s challenge and his own vulnerabilities. His rhetoric was not shrill or excessive, but he got the message out that the campaign wanted: Gingrich is a risky nominee, and he is not.
The interviews not only amplified the attacks aimed at the former House speaker from a variety of angles — including a “super PAC” supporting Romney’s candidacy that has aired the most negative attacks on Gingrich in Iowa — but also helped convey the impression of a candidate fighting, finally, for the nomination.
Many people thought Romney was using the interviews to set up a confrontation with Gingrich at last Thursday’s debate in Sioux City, Iowa. They were wrong. The interviews and TV commercials created a momentum of their own. At the debate, Romney largely ignored Gingrich. He returned to the core message of his campaign, focusing on President Obama and economic issues. His on-camera presence was designed to be presidential, not intraparty attack dog.