Romney Takes Lead in GOP Field and the Knives Come Out

| Wed May 23, 2007 1:13 PM EDT

With frontrunner status comes increased scrutiny. Is that bad news for Mitt Romney?

According to new polls, the former one-term governor of Massachusetts is leading the Republican field in Iowa and New Hampshire. And leading in a big way: the Des Moines Register puts Romney at 30 percent in Iowa, compared to 18 for McCain and 17 for Giuliani. A Zogby poll in New Hampshire shows Romney at 35 percent, with both McCain and Giuliani stuck at 19. Those are leads big enough to withstand the vagaries of public opinion.

A quick aside: Giuliani lost his lofty lead as Republican voters began to hear more and more about his positions on social issues, the conventional wisdom goes. Then how to explain Romney's rise? He previously held all of the same positions as Giuliani -- he's just trying to lie about them while Giuliani is standing for what he believes in. Says a political scientist at Northeastern University in Boston, "After studying presidential nominations for 30 years, I've never seen somebody who has so completely renounced his past record when he decided to run for president." That's what the GOP wants? That's the best they can get?

Anyway. McCain, for one, isn't taking the Romney Rise quite so well. Quotes from the McCain camp include:

"The question for voters is, does a one-term governor from Massachusetts have the foreign policy experience necessary to deal with the challenges of today's world?"

And:

"Mitt Romney has been consistent in one regard: that nearly every position he holds now is opposite of what it was when he was governor of Massachusetts."

So now all the pot shots are directed at Romney, and they will continue to be until someone else takes the lead. I'm sure Romney, Giuliani, and McCain are all loading up attacks on Fred Thompson, should he step into the ring jump out to a strong start. The media scrutiny gets tougher too. AlterNet is slamming Romney for having a poor record on diversity and minorities, and Time recently published "Tongue Tied - Mitt Romney's Top Ten Gaffes." The question for presidential contenders is not who can earn the spotlight, but who can survive it.