Mitt's moment

Mitt Romney is running out of time to stop New Gingrich. Romney is way behind Gingrich in South Carolina, Iowa and Florida and is seeing his lead in New Hampshire diminish by the day as Gingrich rises. The former House Speaker could well win Iowa and one week later miss beating Romney in New Hampshire, a scenario that would likely ensure Gingrich victories in Florida and South Carolina.

Debates on ABC News this Saturday and on Fox News Channel on Dec. 15 are crucial for Gingrich to hold his lead and for Romney to attack Gingrich's credentials as a leader. As the new front-runner, Gingrich will probably sit back, but Romney will be in the hot seat — simultaneously forced to question Gingrich's fitness for the job of president while remaining the affable and unflappable candidate he has introduced himself as and never making any criticism of Gingrich seem personal. Gingrich has risen for many reasons, most of all a strong resistance to Romney, but he will also put to use his deep knowledge of the issues, and he has promised to stay on the high road. Any attempt by Romney that appears overly aggressive will surely boomerang and make Newt even more popular with his supporters.

Finally, Romney needs to convince voters that he loves what he is selling. He isn't a demonstrative person but now that his path to the nomination is truly threatened he needs to start fighting for it. Gingrich loves what he is selling, and believes not only that he is capable of being president but that he is capable of winning. So does Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). You don't have to agree with either of them, but you can tell they buy what they sell. Mitt Romney hasn't convinced voters he truly believes he can win and that he will fight to do so. If he can, he might win, but if he can't, he will surely lose.


WILL MITT FLAME OUT? Ask A.B. returns Tuesday, Dec. 13. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.