Donald Lambro

While Santorum focused his shoe-string campaign on Iowa, he does not have a national campaign organization to match Romney's, nor does he have access to the kind of financial support the former governor will have over the ensuring months.

Moreover, Romney is expected to come out of the New Hampshire primary with the wind at his back and that's going to give him advantages in January's two remaining primaries.

Gallup did some historical research this week on how the winner in New Hampshire fared after its primary and here's what they found:

"Since 1976 -- the first year in the modern nominating era in which there was a competitive Republican contest -- the leader after New Hampshire has ultimately won the nomination."

Even so, Romney still faces daunting difficulties after the Granite State's contest.

He has been running behind Gingrich in South Carolina as well as in Florida, though that was before the Georgia congressman's decline amidst revelations that he made a fortune as an adviser-lobbyist for the federal government's huge home mortgage agency, Freddie Mac, which was at the core of the subprime housing scandal.

Could Gingrich, who now threatens to take the gloves off and strike back at Mitt Romney's attack ads, make a comeback?

It's possible that could occur, though Gallup reported Thursday that its polling "shows Romney (26 percent) holding a slight edge over Newt Gingrich (22 percent) with Ron Paul a distance third at 13 percent."

Gallup said Santorum was next at 8 percent, although his numbers have risen in recent days leading up to Iowa, averaging 12 percent on Monday and Tuesday. Post-Iowa polls will undoubtedly show his numbers climbing.

Still, the question about Santorum is whether he has staying power and the ability to reach out to independents who will likely decide this election.

His home state of Pennylvania will be a key battleground this fall, but voters in that swing state fired him by a nearly 18-point margin in his 2006 re-election bid.

Meanwhile, what are we to make of Obama's uptick to 46 percent his job approval polls, after many months in the low 40s? Some of it may be due to a slight improvement in the consumer confidence surveys, and a feeling in parts of the electorate that the economy is improving slightly.

Some of it may have to do with dissident constituencies in his own party who are coming home and supporting him again.

But the overall political trends and a very weak Obama economy still remain a hostile environment for Obama.

Last month, Moody Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi, the news media's go to guy on the economy, gave this dismal forecast for 2012:

"Since businesses are expected to remain cautious, 2012 is unlikely to be a breakout year for the economy... thus there will be little reduction in unemployment."

"How long it will take to get the business cycle back into gear isn't yet apparent, but it seems unlikely to happen until after the 2012 election. Perhaps it will be the election itself," he added.

Translation: Lower unemployment and a much stronger economy isn't going to happen until Obama leaves office.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.