Donald Lambro

In Iowa, Romney leads with 26 percent, while Giuliani is at 16.8 percent. In New Hampshire, Romney is ahead with 26.4 percent to Giuliani's 22.4 percent. In Michigan, Romney leads with 26.3 percent, with Giuliani at 18.7 percent. In Nevada, he is way out in front with 28 percent, followed by Giuliani and Thompson at 18 percent each.

How can Romney be leading in four of the six nominating contests in January when he is badly trailing in the national polls?

Part of the answer has to do with his business background and his skill as a venture capitalist who invested in small growing companies and built them into winners. He has plowed much of his campaign war chest into television ads in the four early caucuses and primaries and has reaped a high return on his money. His investment strategy is based on the time-tested belief that the heavy news attention and momentum he will derive from winning these first four contests will help him overtake Giuliani in the remaining primaries where the New York Republican is ahead.

"There are two schools of thought on this," independent pollster John Zogby told me. "One says that if a candidate is leading nationwide, that will help that candidate in the early states. But I'm in the old school. I think Iowa and New Hampshire are still the gatekeepers."

Zogby is skeptical of the national polls. "Sure, Rudy is best known. Why wouldn't the best known lead in the national rankings?"

But can Romney's strategy work in January?

"The political question this really poses is, Can a front-running candidate like Giuliani get pounded in Iowa, lose in Michigan and Nevada, and get beaten in New Hampshire, and not be hurt by that?" Zogby said. "I mean, that would produce some bad stories and headlines for his candidacy."

It's an unfolding scenario that has the Giuliani campaign worried, but one it believes the candidate can overcome by quick back-to-back victories in South Carolina and Florida before the heavyweight primaries on Feb. 5.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.