Iowa is a must-win for GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, Jamelle Bouie writes in a blog entry at the American Prospect, which is why Ron Paul's surge in the latest polls is so dangerous. Bouie looks at how the GOP race is shaping up.

With his vast trail of scandals and long list of enemies, Newt Gingrich is unlikely to win the Republican presidential nomination, even if he’s leading the polls. But if you were to imagine a path to the nomination for the former House Speaker, it would begin in Iowa. A strong win in the Iowa caucuses would provide Gingrich with the momentum necessary to place well in New Hampshire (or win it, under the right circumstances). With the momentum of two primaries behind him, Gingrich would cruise to victory in South Carolina and Florida and finish January as the presumptive nominee. 

Iowa is a must-have for Gingrich, which is why Ron Paul’s surge — he is tied with Gingrich in the latest survey from Public Policy Polling — is so dangerous. A Ron Paul win in Iowa would both derail Gingrich and help Mitt Romney as he navigates through the New Hampshire primary. In that sense, Paul is Romney’s greatest ally in the Republican presidential primaries. If Paul can keep Gingrich from building momentum, then Romney finishes January in a strong position, even if he underperforms in South Carolina and Florida; the February contests — Nevada, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota, Arizona, and Michigan — are far more friendly to Romney than they are to Gingrich or anyone else in the race.

Read Jamelle Bouie's entire blog entry at the American Prospect.