Theirs is bigger than yours
Speaking here this morning to a gathering of farmers and mill workers, Romney said that America’s security depends on having a president with a big one, and that he was ready to meet the challenge.
“When Iowa Republicans get together on Caucus Night,” Romney predicted, “they’ll be looking for a strong leader who’ll be able to confront the problems of tomorrow without backing down. Most of all, they’ll want to be sure that the person they place their trust in has a really big one.
“I am that man,” Romney declared, “and I’ve always been that man.”
The effort to differentiate himself from his fellow Republicans comes as the latest polls show a significant drop in Romney’s Iowa lead, which once stood in double digits. Romney has mounted the largest and most expensive Republican effort in the state, and until quite recently, most analysts expected him to breeze to victory Jan. 3.
But a surge by several rivals—especially former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee—has had Romney staffers looking over their shoulders and eager for a chance to show off their candidate’s bona fides.
“We’re not saying they’re not good Republicans, too,” a senior Romney adviser explained, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal campaign deliberations. “But we’re saying that Mitt’s far and away the best of the bunch where it really counts.”
The adviser cited the candidate’s recent statements condemning illegal immigrants and condemning terrorism, as well as condemning illegal immigrants who might be thinking about terrorism.
“He’s just way out in front of these other guys,” said the adviser, “and that’s even before you get to all the members of his extended family.”
Other campaigns, unwilling to concede any ground on a topic expected to be uppermost in GOP voters’ minds throughout the nominating process, were quick to rebut Romney’s claims.
“Mitt Romney may think he’s got the biggest one,” countered the Rudy Giuliani campaign in a midafternoon press release, “but anyone who knows Rudy Giuliani knows that Rudy has an even bigger one.”
An aide to former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson dismissed both men’s assertions.
“You’ve seen Fred Thompson on TV,” said the aide, who declined to be identified. “You’ve heard Fred Thompson talk. It’s perfectly obvious who has the biggest one, and I’m sure that’s going to come out more clearly over the next few weeks.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Arizona Sen. John McCain, who is trailing badly here but hoping for a stronger finish in the New Hampshire primary to follow, tried to position his candidate above the fray.
“Just because John doesn’t brag about having a big one doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a big one,” the spokesman maintained, speaking on background.
And the Huckabee campaign, the principal source of Romney’s recent discomfort, sought to stake its own claim without abandoning the candidate’s feel-good campaign style.
“Red and yellow, black and white,” said a Huckabee adviser, “they’re all equal in His sight.”
Republican Party Chairman Mike Duncan declined to take sides in the dispute, contending that all the current attention would be good for the party next November, as independents—and even some Democrats—gravitate toward the candidate who has what it takes.
“Whichever one of these guys gets the nomination,” said Duncan, “it’ll certainly be somebody with a bigger one than anybody on the other side.”
Officials with the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns declined to comment.