Mitt RomneyLinda Feldman in today’s Christian Science Monitor writes about Mitt Romney’s recent surge (dare I use that term?) in the traditional pre or early primary states: Iowa and New Hampshire.His early showing here is impressive, and reflects his organizational talents supreme:

Forget the national polls that show Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, as the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. A credible argument can be made that Mitt Romney is the front-runner.

The former governor of Massachusetts is now consistently running first in most polls of two key early nomination races, Iowa and New Hamsphire – states where the voters are paying closest attention. Mr. Romney, the top Republican fundraiser in the first quarter of 2007, is generally expected to match or exceed that total ($20.6 million) in the second quarter and maintain his status as No. 1 in GOP presidential finances.

More money means more TV ads and organization, two other areas where Romney is already ahead in the early states, enhancing a sense of momentum. Of course, before any actual votes are cast, nothing is certain. In previous cycles, leaders in polling and fundraising have fallen flat come caucus and primary day. And in the 2008 presidential sweepstakes, the front-loading of the primaries makes the role of Iowa and New Hampshire less predictable.

But by playing the traditional Iowa-New Hampshire game, and so far doing well at it, Romney is putting the other top-tier Republican candidates on the defensive.

“Nationally, if his second-quarter fundraising numbers build on his first, then it becomes increasingly difficult to dismiss him as flavor-of-the-month,” says Dante Scala, a political scientist at the University of New Hampshire.

He and other political observers in both Iowa and New Hampshire credit Romney with being the best-organized GOP candidate in both states. Romney has also gone on the air first with TV ads in those states – plus South Carolina, another early-primary state – boosting his profile and poll numbers.

Ok, I agree with all that. Mitt is indeed an organizational whiz, and he has the early state poll numbers and fund raising figures to prove it. But, is it enough? I’m not so sure.

Recent opinion polls reflect that George Bush’s approval ratings are at an all time low, 29%.

29% Opinion Poll

While immigration issues play an important part (another area where I think Romney is wrong), I believe most of Bush’s low approval stems from his abysmal job performance from beginning to end in Iraq. Yet, Mr. Romney, while somewhat critical of Bush’s incompetence on the war, nevertheless embraces the war effort including Bush’s morally questionable interrogation techniques. It is clear to me most of America has overwhelmingly spoken against the war, and this administration’s war policies. Yet, Mitt Romney refuses to draw the sharp distinctions on the Iraq war and George Bush that I think he must make to take him out from under the cloud of Bush’s 29% approval ratings.

Romney has a history of organizational success stories, from the 2002 Winter Olympics, and effectively governing as a republican in heavily democratic MA. Yet, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why such an organizational genius continues to support an impractical approach to Iraq, the most unpopular aspect of George Bush’s presidency.

In my view, if Mr. Romney were to make a complete break with George Bush on Iraq, and vow to wind down that war, as an irrelevant waste of America’s resources, I think his chances, even in republican primaries would improve, beyond what his current organizational prowess provides.

Update 6/24/07:  See also John F’s excellent post over at Headlife