From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
In the wake of new polling showing Romney's lead expanded in New Hampshire, the Giuliani campaign stressed it's not all about the early states. They went through the numbers and broke down mathematically how the front-loaded primary calendar -- complete with the capstone Feb. 5 delegate treasure trove --favors Giuliani.
"If you look at that number of delegates," Giuliani Campaign Manager Mike DuHaime said in a conference call with reporters, "there's a tremendous focus on Iowa and New Hampshire… but again, I feel very, very confident, if you do this as a delegate game, this very much lines up very favorably for us."
But momentum can be very key. Romney has a solid lead in Iowa and has consistently led in New Hampshire. South Carolina is a close race between Thompson, Giuliani and Romney. If Romney were to win Iowa and New Hampshire, the campaign hopes that would pave the way and the current leads Giuliani has in Feb. 5 states would tighten, if not fall away.
DuHaime argued against that notion. "Some of those leads are momentum-proof at this point," he said. He stressed Giuliani's margins in the New York tri-state area of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut versus what he called Romney's "precarious" lead in New Hampshire where he is known, having been governor of neighboring Massachusetts.
"Mayor Giuliani's "momentum-proof" national polling lead, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny all walk into a bar…," Romney spokesman Kevin Madden begins in a statement in response. "You're right. None of them exist."
DuHaime, though, emphasized, "There are multiple paths to the nomination. We see the possibility of two paths. We agree with the possibility of the momentum of early states or we would not be focused on them. We've taken a longer approach. It's not just a Feb. 5th strategy."
Madden argues that Giuliani's national lead in polls will not necessarily translate into Feb. 5 support. He said that Romney "is perfectly positioned to be competitive in the early election contests," but also in the Feb. 5 state of Florida, where, he said, they are seeing a "positive trend line emerge."
"Mayor Giuliani continues to hang his hat on national polls that show him garnering around 30 percent support," Madden said, "yet fully 100 percent of the electorate knows who he is. That is a very big gulf to have between the number of voters that know him and the number that actually support him. …For Mayor Giuliani to have 100 percent of Iowa voters know who he is, yet only around 11 percent of those voters support him...that's a major problem for his candidacy."
Giuliani strategist Brent Seaborn doesn't see it that way and stressed Feb. 5th's significance. "We have a recognition that the early states are important," Seaborn said. "But there's no single point that's close to February 5th with the total number of delegates. There's no point in this campaign where you have essentially all the delegates you need to win on one single day. It's hard to miss that that day's gottta have a bull's eye around it in terms of its importance."
NOTES: How much is Team Giuliani hoping Huckabee does well? Take this from the call:
"We've really seen the rise of Governor Huckabee, and he's putting together a very strong campaign," Seaborn said. "He's going to enter the states here in the last stretches as a real candidate. He's challenging Romney in some polls. I feel good about where we are in Iowa. The way we see it, Romney has a big infrastructure there, invested a lot there. We have a very good field program. We're in a battle with Governor Huckabee there for second place. Certainly, Fred Thompson would like to do well there, but he hasn't gotten it going."
After all, a strong showing for Huckabee, a social conservative, would further split the conservative vote, likely hurt Romney and Thompson and buoy Giuliani.