Mr. Romney staked his strategy on winning both Iowa and New Hampshire, putting up millions of dollars of his personal fortune and blanketing the airwaves with ads in an attempt to establish early momentum. But two straight losses could make the next contest, the Jan. 15 Michigan primary, his final stand. As a Michigan native and son of a well-known former governor, Romney has a strong profile there.
Hillary Clinton, the longtime national front-runner on the Democratic side, finds herself in straits similar to Romney's. Since the 1970s, when the modern nominating process began, few candidates have been able to capture the nomination after failing to win Iowa and New Hampshire. (The New York senator's husband, former President Bill Clinton, pulled that off in 1992, but in that cycle the Democratic caucuses went uncontested, with Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa in the race.)
In Republican and Democratic debates here Saturday night, all eyes were on both Mrs. Clinton and Romney. The New York senator went after Mr. Obama, challenging him on what she called his changed positions on healthcare, the Patriot Act, and Iraq war funding. And in an election year with voters of both major parties calling clearly for change, she portrayed herself as the candidate of experience, best able to bring about change.