Yes, things are getting a little testy in Iowa and elsewhere. Mitt Romney is now officially on the defensive as his numbers shrink and Newt Gingrich's climb. Negative ads have started to fill the airways in Iowa and more are soon to follow. Mr. Romney is not going to let this nomination get away from him without a fight and some serious name calling.
Romney's main problem is that he is suspected of being a republican in name only by the right wing of the party. He has that Rudy Giuliani feel to him. He's a little too slick looking. He is from an arch liberal state where all that tea party, evangelical, social conservatism doesn't play like it does in the south and southwest, so he stayed mum or at least not sufficiently outraged on certain issues. In the past he has had to make deals with the devils. Most importantly his positions have morphed from the center to the right only since his presidential campaign began. His recent politics seem more the result of focus group polls rather than true conviction. In short he is suspected of past political heresies and crass opportunism.
All of which might be true. Nothing will make a man change long held beliefs quite like a run for the white house. Everything you've ever said, or done can and will be altered, denied, or repudiated when going for the grand prize in American politics.
The biggest winner in all this could well be Ron Paul. The gritty libertarian from Texas is fanning the flames of the anti Gingrich fires himself. Why not? He has absolutely nothing to lose and he, unlike Gingrich, actually does have a true conservative track record and is free from charges of profiteering off his career. His quasi isolationist foreign policy will play well to a nation tired of wars past, present, and future. And, who knows even the heroin users might register and vote for him given his stated position on drug legalization.
The situation is, as they say, fluid. Gingrich is building a lead, Romney is fading and Paul has moved up to third in many polls. Everyone else in the field is playing out the string, hoping for a cabinet position, or ambassadorship if the nominee can knock off Obama.
In this media driven society one mis-step is all it takes to destroy months of hard work. Loose lips will sink ships and that is perhaps Gingrich's greatest weakness.
Look for the Romney and Paul campaigns to slash and stab with increasing ferocity as they both try to provoke Mr. Gingrich into that fatal error. It is out there. They both know it. It is just a matter of getting Newt's blood up in front of the national audience and turning the mic over to him.
Its a nasty business, but someone has to do it.