FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
With three weeks to go until the Iowa caucuses, the pressure is squarely on Mitt Romney. It wasn't supposed to go this way at all. The Republican presidential nomination was supposed to be a coronation for Romney. But instead, Romney finds himself chasing Newt Gingrich, and Gingrich is pulling away.
In New Hampshire, Romney and Gingrich took off the gloves, throwing direct jabs at each other. Romney can no longer simply remain above the fray. The fray has frayed his lead rather badly.
New Hampshire was once considered a sure thing for Romney. Now it could be a make-or-break contest for him.
One New Hampshire pollster tells The New York Times that expectations are so high for Romney there that Gingrich could lose by 10 percentage points and still spin it as a win.
Gingrich – who is leading in the national polls as well as in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida – has narrowed the gap in New Hampshire to just 9 points in one recent poll.
What's working in Romney's favor is that New Hampshire voters think he's much more likely to beat President Obama than Gingrich is.
But these voters don't appear excited by Romney ... and the momentum is clearly with Gingrich.
For example, Gingrich held a town-hall-style meeting for a 1,000-person overflow crowd at a New Hampshire high school on Monday night. The applause was described as "deafening."
Meanwhile, Howard Kurtz writes in the Daily Beast that it's not time to rule out Romney just yet. Kurtz suggests that Romney is still a plausible president in these tough economic times and that his campaign is financed for the long haul. Maybe so, but remember, Romney already lost this race once. He's the same guy voters rejected four years ago.
Kurtz says Romney needs to demonstrate real passion and can't simply wait for Gingrich to self-destruct.
Oh, and he should probably stop making $10,000 bets.
Here’s my question to you: What does Mitt Romney have to do to recapture his front-runner status?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
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