Here's Where I Think We Stand As of Now on the Horse Race
By Dan McLaughlin Posted in 2008 | 2008 Presidential Campaign | Fred Thompson | John McCain | Mike Huckabee | Mitt Romney | Rudy Giuliani — Comments (39) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
Take this for what it's worth, but here with minimal spin is my distillation of the calendar, the polls and the CW as they stand.
1. There is no frontrunner. The winner of Michigan on Tuesday becomes the official frontrunner at least through Florida on the 29th. If it's McCain, he argues that he's a known, vetted national figure who has won 2 of 3 significant contests thus far. He then remains the frontrunner even if he doesn't win SC. If it's Huck, he argues that he has won 2 of 3 and is only now heading for his home region; he stays the frontrunner unless McCain somehow beats him in SC. If it's Mitt, he argues that he alone competed in all 4 contests thus far, won MI & WY, placed second in IA and NH, and has the money to go national on 2/5.
2. Rudy has to win FL outright or he is toast. He's gone too many contests without being competitive; only a first place showing in a big, contested state changes that dynamic. If Rudy wins FL, his February 5 strategy remains in play, though it is still a long shot. Best outcome for Rudy now is for McCain to win MI and Fred to at least make a strong showing in SC so that Rudy faces neither a re-energized Mitt on 2/5 nor a Huckernaut in FL.
3. Fred has to win SC outright or he is toast. Same dynamic as Rudy, plus Fred needs badly to keep Huck from locking down the South. Best outcome for Fred now is for Huck to finish third in MI.
4. There's no way that there are more than three tickets punched to survive 2/5, but I can easily see it remaining a 3-man race through March 4, when Ohio, Texas and three New England states vote (MA, RI & VT). My guess as of now is that the race ends there; I can't see anybody being ready to put the whole thing to bed by 2/5 (several of the candidates have likely wins that day in their home bases) and the primaries in between (LA & KS on 2/9, VA/MD/DC on 2/12, and WI/WA on 2/19) seem unlikely to be decisive for candidates who have survived that far. But God have mercy on us if we go past 3/4; besides Mississippi on 3/11, we then go six weeks until the next primary (Pennsylvania on April 22), by which time the D nominee will already be spending general election funds.
5. The hidden story here is money. Except Romney's own checkbook, none of these guys has the money to last beyond 2/5, and only Mitt and Rudy can even get that far without raising a lot of money this month; that's why they each need to leverage visible momentum to avoid getting KO'd. But the surprise at the end of the day may be that one of the candidates who ended up far off the money lead wins the nomination, which is a much bigger long term story than it has been so far.