Huck rises, Rudy slides, Romney’s strategy breaks down

Well, this race is certainly in flux isn’t it? Two sets of polls

The first is Rasmussen’s daily trackers for a little over a week. The second is RCP’s averages for the national race from Wednesday, December 5th. RCP messed up the dates a little. Rasmussen should have been at the top, rather than the bottom. But something is clear. Giuliani is experiencing a steady drop. Huckabee is rising.

There are a lot of basic assumptions in this race that get thrown out at this point.

The first one is that Rudy can survive to Feb. 5th without solid victories in early primary states. The WSJ makes this argument:

If the trend continues and Giuliani looses his national lead, he would find it harder to raise funds. It would also greatly complicate — perhaps even doom — his unorthodox primary strategy.

Giuliani is betting he can survive losses in the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan, where polls show him trailing Mitt Romney and other candidates, and come back with a convincing win in Florida on Jan. 29.

Then if all goes as planned, he would put the nomination in the bag by winning a series of delegate-rich big states, including his native New York and neighboring New Jersey, in the “Tsunami Tuesday” round of primaries on Feb. 5.

 That would seem great for Mitt Romney, the Rudy Giuliani challenger. But not so much. I think that this dynamic of Rudy falling and Huckabee rising creates a very serious challenge for Romney. You see, his proposition has long been that conservatives should rally around him because he can defeat Rudy. But if Rudy is … falling … then that argument goes out the window. You see, here’s what Romney surrogate Jim Bopp had to say:

"Either a conservative is going to emerge" with the financial and organizational power to take on Giuliani, predicted Bopp, or "Giuliani is going to be the nominee."

Ummm. It seems that a conservative is emerging — Mike Huckabee — and that Rudy may well not be the nominee. I am not willing to shut the door on anyone yet, but if the Huckabee guys started making that argument ("We are up in Iowa and nationwide. What do you mean Rudy is going to win?") it would be very hard for the Romney guys to push back. You see, part 2 of Romney’s argument was:

Bopp‘s rhetoric was aimed not just at Giuliani but also at former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee who has made up considerable ground on Romney in recent week here in the Hawkeye State. "I love Mike Huckabee," Bopp said, quickly adding: "Something I know for sure [is] he does not have the resources to compete." Boiled down, Bopp‘s argument is simple: You might like Huckabee best but he can’t win. So, vote for the guy — Romney — you like second best.

Well. It seems like, on the day before the big Mormon speech, the Romney guys might need a new rationale for how they get conservatives.

And the Rudy guys, without being the frontrunner, may have a real problem on their hands.