TANDEN: I think he is saying he's going -- he seems to be telling...
TAPPER: I will draw a contrast.
TANDEN: ... he's going to be contrasting with Mitt Romney much more directly. And I think...
ROBINSON: ... doesn't get that opportunity, though, if he finishes fifth in Iowa. If he finishes fifth, that's damaging to him. How does -- I know he's currently leading in South Carolina and Florida. But after Iowa, I mean, we've seen Mike Huckabee change the dynamic of the polls after -- in 2008. I don't think Newt Gingrich can -- can count on his standings in these other polls in other states after Iowa, if he finishes poorly there.
YORK: He did not do this just out of generosity. I mean, this was the strategy on his part. And after the early debates, every Republican who watched him liked the fact that he did not go after fellow candidates, that he would say we only have one real opponent, and that's Barack Obama. And they would all say, you know, I hate it when they bicker with each other. Remember when Perry and Romney were going after each other?
TAPPER: He was a statesman.
YORK: He was above it all. And it worked for him, until the Romney ads came out.
TAPPER: But does he get...
TANDEN: Right, but he's been tanking. I mean, it was -- it's 10 days, and he's tanked significantly after 10 days of ads. I mean, he -- so it does seem odd that he hasn't -- he hasn't changed his strategy in the last week or so. ROBINSON: I question if he's going to have that opportunity to be that elder statesman again after Iowa, when the focus of the race is going to be on Romney, Ron Paul, or Santorum. I mean, once again, he goes to the outside edges of the debate stage, and can you still be that elder statesman? I don't know if he gets that chance.
TAPPER: Let's talk about Romney for one second. One other interesting note -- pardon me -- in the Des Moines Register poll was they asked would-be caucusgoers, who do you think is the most electable? Who has the best chance of beating President Obama? Look at this: Romney, 48 percent; Gingrich, 13 percent; Ron Paul, 12 percent.
So there are more people in Iowa who will attend the caucus who think Romney has the best chance, but will not vote for him, than there are people who think Romney has the best chance and will vote for him.
YORK: This is what Santorum is trying to fight against. He said, look, don't play pundit. Please do not play pundit. Right now, vote for who you think is best. He's saying that at every single event he goes to, because he knows that the number-one consideration among a lot of Iowa voters is electability. But of course, for a while, they thought maybe that was Herman Cain. For a while, they thought it was Newt Gingrich. And Santorum is saying, please, just vote who you think is best.
DOWD: Well, that -- to me, this is -- this is the entire -- this is the entire narrative of this campaign is about Mitt Romney, and why hasn't Mitt Romney been able to close the deal with voters? I mean, that really is what this -- we've had rises and falls, but the consistent storyline is, Mitt Romney, nationally, the only place that he seemed to break this is New Hampshire, where he basically has a house, where he's lived basically most of his life.
TAPPER: And he was governor of a neighboring state of Massachusetts.