Every four years pundits get to swing for the fences. Only the timid split differences and hairs. The pundits worth reading will declare what they see in the very cloudy crystal ball. Here's my take.
There are two very separate battles within the fight for the GOP presidential nomination.
There is the contest between Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Fred Thompson to be the conservative challenger to Rudy Giuliani.
And then there is the contest between that challenger and the former New York City mayor.
It is Rudy's hope that the race to be his opponent for the Republican nomination doesn't narrow until after the February 5 primaries in New York, California, Georgia and 17 other states divide up 1,058 delegates. (The full primary and caucus calendar is here.) Rudy would love to see a long, drawn-out, bitter struggle among the contenders to be the alternative to his candidacy, a struggle that drains all three of money and energy even as Rudy piles up delegates.
Romney is counting on strong showings in Iowa (January 3), Wyoming (January 5), New Hampshire (January 8 ?) and Michigan (January 15) to send the message that he and only he can match Giuliani in appeal and fund-raising prowess. Giuliani is counting on Huckabee to bleed Romney in Iowa enough so that the Mainstream Media can proclaim Romney's showing in Iowa a "disappointment" and try to throw the race to race Rudy into disarray.