I normally don’t like to write on polls, but I think that this one tells us a lot about the future of the GOP race in Iowa. David Yepsen comments here. I am going to write this as a two-parter. The first part is about the numbers. The second part is about the strategy that I think needs to follow from the numbers, for some of the candidates.
I think that the lesson here is that Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee, and, to a lesser extent, Mitt Romney have a lot of room for upwards progress. John McCain and Rudy Giuliani do not. If these trajectories continue, they should both consider dropping out of Iowa. New Hampshire and Michigan are both more permissive — open primaries — and less conservative. It seems clear that both candidates are, more or less, on this path. They should even consider telling their grassroots organizations to, on caucus day, support either Huckabee or Thompson. This would increase the likelihood of the story coming out of Iowa being about Romney. As Yepsen says:
With everyone expecting [Romney] to win, when he does, he won’t get that much bounce out of it and he needs that to build his national poll numbers, which aren’t so hot.
On the GOP side, the focus is now starting to center on who finishes second and third in Iowa since the “coach” and “standby” tickets into New Hampshire are still good ones to have. Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee have grabbed those positions. That’s especially good news for Huckabee who had been languishing back in single digits.
Rudy and McCain probably don’t have the power to influence the story about themselves coming out of Iowa. But they can probably do a lot to make sure that the right story about the other candidates gets told.