It's quickly becoming more and more apparent that an earlier-than-ever primary campaign season means earlier-than-ever efforts by serious candidates to adequately staff their campaigns, conduct polling and touch all the other bases required to have a shot at winning these critical states. Now it's become not just a question of strategy, but of resources to implement that strategy.
Some campaigns are quietly wondering whether it will be time and money well spent to trudge through Iowa and New Hampshire for months of speaking to small gatherings of caucus members or voters, when South Carolina and Florida may decide who is the viable candidate heading into Super Tuesday.
Some GOP campaign strategists noticed Romney's boast that he's winning Iowa and New Hampshire. They wonder whether they should concede those states to Romney and focus their own efforts on bigger states where they are more competitive.
Such radical chance-taking rarely happens. It looks too much like throwing in the towel. John McCain, for example, is slipping in the polls. He can only bow out of Iowa and New Hampshire if, say, frontrunner Giuliani does it first.
Giuliani and Thompson both may have compelling reasons to let Romney celebrate hollow victories in Iowa and New Hampshire. Witness the fact that Giuliani bagged the Iowa straw poll, and that he leads in the polls in both South Carolina and Florida. If one major candidate pulls out of the Iowa and New Hampshire contests, others might follow.
Thompson especially seems capable of anything. If his poll numbers keep rising at the rate they have in recent weeks, he alone might be able to give Romney a genuine fight in Iowa. On the other hand, TV actor Thompson knows his Drama 101. He might just be the alpha hound dog that leads the pack in staking out South Carolina and Florida with a big, "Welcome South, y'all."