It's no secret that Mitt Romney's stock is rising inside Republican circles. The former Massachusetts Governor is working overtime to position himself as the authentic conservative alternative to "moderates" John McCain and Rudy Giuliani for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008. While McCain and Giuliani try to court the right of the party, Romney contends he's already there.
Said Romney in June about the Republican electorate: "On the Republican side we'll want someone who can beat her [Hillary Clinton] and someone who has a clear message for the direction of our country, making it absolutely clear that they're a strong Republican that believes in Republican principles."
In other words, not McCain and Giuliani.
After McCain, Romney's done more than any other GOP candidate to build a farm team of intellectual and grassroots talent to advise him.
Yesterday Romney announced the hires of two of President Bush's top economic advisors, Glenn Hubbard and Gregory Mankiw, and a top domestic policy advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney, Cesar Conda.
Earlier in the week he locked up the support in South Carolina of operative Warren Tompkins, described as "the architect behind Bush's hard-hitting campaign in S.C. in 2000," by The State, South Carolina's largest newspaper.
The impending battle between McCain and Romney in South Carolina is already being called "Slugfest 2."
Let the games begin!