I don't buy the arguments in the Giuliani campaign's recent conference call outlining their candidate's inevitable path to the Republican nomination--and not for the reasons suggested by the Romney campaign. On The Stump, Noam Scheiber argues that if Romney comes out ahead in the early primary states, Mitt could start picking up states in the Midwest and West, even Florida, Rudy's supposed "firewall." But another looming problem, seemingly unaddressed in campaign’s conference call, is the South. If Fred Thompson continues his swan dive, while Rudy keeps playing the supposed-frontrunner-who-gets-beaten, isn’t it possible that a high-spending family man like Romney could make a play in states like Mississippi and Virginia? Someone’s got to get those voters who are fleeing from Fred--why not the guy with the momentum? And with the RNC granting additional delegates to states that have voted red, Dixie has disproportionate clout. Maybe Giuliani can get away with basically ignoring Iowa and conceding first place in New Hampshire, but if Romney makes a strong showing in the South, he won’t get very far at all.

(One more note: On the call, Rudy’s aides reportedly said that they feel good about their current second-place position in New Hampshire. What if McCain keeps climbing?)

--Ben Wasserstein