What happened
Mitt Romney said his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination could survive a loss in Thursday’s Iowa caucuses, even though he once held a double-digit lead there. A new Des Moines Register poll now shows former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee with a 32 percent to 26 percent lead over Romney. (Detroit Free Press)

What the commentators said
Romney is the only GOP candidate who can “afford to lose an important state and still win the nomination,” said David Brooks in The New York Times (free registration). Romney has become the “fusion candidate” by swinging to the right on immigration and security, and by embracing “a culture war against the faithless.” The trouble is, “in turning himself into an old-fashioned, orthodox Republican, he has made himself unelectable in the fall.”

Republicans know an “orthodox” candidate is doomed, said Jason Zengerle in The New Republic Online. The polls are clear on that. But the leadership isn’t ready to let an “unorthodox Republican” like John McCain transform the party. “It's going to be pretty fascinating to watch Republicans—rather than Democrats, for once—snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”

Some people are going a bit overboard with their attacks on Romney, said National Review Online in an editorial. The Union Leader, a prominent conservative newspaper in New Hampshire, has launched a “fierce and lopsided” campaign to boost McCain at Romney’s expense. The paper has branded Romney as a flip-flopper for changing his views on immigration and cultural issues. But McCain has evolved, too, and a flip-flop isn’t a bad thing as long as it’s in the right direction.