Mitt Romney’s confidence is brimming. The former governor, now widely seen as the favorite to win Iowa, announced Wednesday he’ll stay in the Hawkeye State the night of the caucus, a clear indication he anticipates a good result. If he does capture Iowa, he’ll head into New Hampshire, long his political stronghold, with a chance to become the first non-incumbent GOP presidential candidate ever to win the first two primary contests – a back-to-back triumph that would all but secure the nomination.

So, naturally, his Republican rivals have spent the last week castigating him on the trail and eviscerating him on TV, all in a desperate attempt to slow down his momentum and keep their own campaigns viable. Right? No – they’ve nearly done the opposite.

In a new radio ad released Wednesday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry set his sights not on Romney but on former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who is enjoying his own surge in Iowa. In the ad and on the campaign trail, Perry criticized Santorum’s previous support for earmarks, calling the ex-U.S. senator part of the big-spending Washington establishment. He does not, however, mention Romney.

It’s an old story this primary, where Romney has not faced the kind of withering attacks that normally confront a front-runner. His rivals have trained their fire on one another instead.

Just examine the Iowa landscape this week as the campaigns make their last desperate push. Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul are at each other’s throats over the defection of the Minnesota congresswoman’s Iowa state chair.

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