I had a chance to sit down for lemonade today with a senior Romney consultant. When asked about Romney's terrific first quarter fundraising report, he told me:
... Romney has proven his trump card that he's the only viable conservative in the race.
I took this to mean that he was more excited about separating Romney from the Sam Brownback's of the world than he was about out-raising McCain and Giuliani. They apparently feel that if Romney can make this a three-way race, Romney will be able to "out-conservative" McCain and Rudy. They believe these numbers do the trick. So step one was to make it a three-way race. Step two will be to be the most conservative frontrunner. And step three is the nomination ...
When the topic of Fred Thompson or Newt Gingrich came up, he noted:
Anybody getting in the race this summer or fall will likely be $50 million in the hole. ... It's not realistic for anyone to think that Newt can get in on October 1 of this year and compete -- after having ignored all the Iowa voters in the straw poll."
He did add that he thought Fred Thompson had a very short window of opportunity of about two months to get in.
When asked about polling, he told me that Romney was very focused on Michigan, Iowa, and New Hampshire. He said the campaign feels that the polling in those states -- plus the fundraising numbers -- makes them feel pretty good about their position.
Clearly, Romney wants this to be a three-way race with McCain and Rudy ...