Of note, two polls put McCain over 20%, which is the first time since his summer meltdown.
First, some details from the Fox poll, which bode well for McCain, then some possible scenarios. The McCain voter is more committed than the Romney or Guiliani voter:
Certain to support:
May change mind:
Guiliani voter 45%
Romney voter 43%
McCain voter 38%
Romney still enjoys a sizeable lead, although the Fox offering brings the gap below double digits. That said, Romney's support is softer than McCain's.
Where it gets quite fascinating, the effect Iowa will have on New Hampshire voters. I would argue that it is Romney and Guiliani that have the most to lose, if Huckabee pulls off the Iowa upset. McCain is basically forgoing Iowa, which means his campaign has constructed the New Hampshire narrative. Whatever happens in Iowa, McCain doesn't take a direct hit because he has chosen the route, from which to be judged. The same can not be said for Romney, who has poured money and resources into Iowa, banking on a victory to propel his campaign. Should Romney lose in Iowa, then his support in New Hampshire could easily wane, and it just so happens that McCain is the top second choice of likely Romney voters.
The other factor, probably more influential, Guiliani is clearly wounded from a 3rd place finish in Iowa. Guiliani risks being lost in the shuffle coming out of Iowa, as Huckabee garners press. Guiliani is already eroding in the national polls, plus the early states. A bad finish in Iowa, polls showing Guiliani in 3rd in New Hampshire, might be enough to mortally wound his campaign. Momentum is king, and Guiliani risks having none coming out of Iowa.
You could argue that Huckabee has the most to gain in New Hampshire, but McCain is much more of a known entity, and the soft voter may turn to him, especially if there is the sense that the other frontrunner's are fading. The reality of a possible Huckabee ticket brings intense scrutiny, which could cause apprehension, given his far right tendencies and uneven record.
McCain's New Hampshire campaign is arguing that "McCain Is Back". The recent endorsement of the most influential Conservative paper in the state, coupled with the encouraging poll numbers create a backdrop for the above scenario to play out. A dark horse, but certainly not a dead horse.