It’s the price of success this primary season: As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie surges in the polls in New Hampshire’s Republican presidential primary, he has drawn the attention of front-runner Donald Trump, who has started aiming some well-placed barbs accusing Mr. Christie of being a party turncoat.
But Mr. Trump is fighting a multifront battle. He also has to deal with the rise of Sen. Ted Cruz in Iowa, even as Mr. Cruz tries to fend off attacks from Sen. Marco Rubio, who in turn is fighting back attacks from erstwhile political friend and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
The crowded Republican field is looking ever more like professional wrestling’s Royal Rumble, which pits more than a dozen fighters against one another in the same ring. The fighters can square off one on one or declare truces, with two of them ganging up to try to oust another.
As the election year dawns, five candidates already have been tossed from the ring, narrowing the field to a dozen, intensifying some of the one-on-one skirmishes and testing the limits of some of the alliances.
“The nastiness very well could ratchet up tenfold,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican Party strategist. “The two things to watch for are Donald Trump going ‘scorched earth’ on anyone that comes close to him in the polls, and the establishment circular firing squad in New Hampshire to see who is going to rise from the ashes.”
Mr. O’Connell said if Mr. Trump thinks he has a chance to win Iowa, he might go on the offensive. Otherwise, he will focus on his opponents in New Hampshire, where the Feb. 9 primary is turning out to be the key showdown for a glut of candidates.