"When Mike Huckabee wins Iowa, we then win New Hampshire," said a McCain campaign official.
JAMES ISLAND, South Carolina (CNN) – Maybe there's a reason Sen. John McCain's been so nice to Mike Huckabee lately.
It's increasingly clear that McCain's campaign is partially pinning its New Hampshire hopes on a Huckabee win in the Iowa caucus.
If the former Arkansas governor defeats former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the Hawkeye State, he could very well undercut Romney's long-held support in New Hampshire, allowing McCain to capitalize in the Jan. 8 primary his campaign considers a must-win.
Don't think McCain wants an Iowa win by the former Arkansas governor? Just ask his campaign.
Bobby Harrell, the South Carolina speaker of the House and one of McCain's state chairmen, offered this prediction on Friday night:
"When Mike Huckabee wins Iowa, we then win New Hampshire," he said at a campaign event here. "[McCain's] doing great in Michigan, we win Michigan. He comes to South Carolina, we win South Carolina. Then we are off and running for the momentum that we need to make this happen."
McCain's campaign also sent out an email Friday saying the veteran senator from Arizona "is best positioned to capitalize on a Romney defeat in Iowa – defeating him in New Hampshire, winning Michigan and South Carolina, and going on to sweep Florida and the Super Tuesday states."
That last part remains a bold prediction, but losses for Romney in Iowa and New Hampshire certainly leave open the possibility that McCain, left for dead by pundits this summer, would be in serious contention to win in the state that catapulted him to national prominence in 2000.
Romney remains in the lead in New Hampshire with 32 percent of the vote, according to a CNN/WMUR poll released this week.
He is followed by McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who are tied with 19 percent. (A Huckabee win could also benefit Giuliani, who has devoted more of his energies to New Hampshire than to any of the early voting states, besides Florida.)
Huckabee stands at just nine percent in the Granite State.
Despite the signals being sent out from his campaign, McCain himself said Friday it's impossible to predict anything in a wide-open GOP race without an "establishment candidate."
"Things are in such a state of flux," he told CNN. "You know three of weeks ago Huckabee was down and now he's up and so it's really hard to know what the scenario would be. So I guess the lesson is, we just keep pressing on with our campaign."
- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby