Here's a great cocktail party scenario, courtesy of the Campaign Standard and your favorite Cardinal. Third place usually isn't worth spit in American politics. But this year things could be different on the Republican side. It's still early and much will change. But the third place ticket out of the Iowa caucus just might turn out to be first class all the way. Here's how: Romney should do well in Iowa. He may win, he may not. But he should beat the other three big contenders and that is still a big win. He'll surge. Mike Huckabee has been slowly growing in Iowa. His campaign is spending nearly all of its meager budget on a well organized Iowa effort. His main competitor on the Christian right, Sen. Sam Brownback, has totally fizzled out. About 25 percent of the likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers are Christian conservatives. If Huckabee can consolidate those votes, he has a very good chance to do well in Iowa, likely finishing in second place or even winning the whole thing. New Hampshire's GOP primary is another story. It features independents, moderate Republicans, French Canadians, and Reaganites, but very few pure Christian conservatives. New Hampshire voters have a history of disliking sunbelt GOP candidates. Plus, Huckabee's campaign lacks the money to do much now to pave a path in New Hampshire. So, if the top two finishers out of Iowa are Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, there is room for another "regular" Republican to become the real Romney alternative in New Hampshire. Upset the formidable Romney there, and you'll be in serious momentum business to win the nomination. Lose to Romney there, and it's probably over. Wanna be president? Scape together 16,000 to 19,000 or so votes on a cold night in January, win a respectably close third place in the Iowa caucuses, and ride that ticket into a two-way showdown with Romney in New Hampshire. Ignore the current spin from Giuliani, Thompson, and McCain downplaying Iowa. It's just a ploy to increase Romney's expectations. They'll all be running through the cornfields looking for the Bronze.
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