South Carolina and Nevada Post-Mortem
I dashed off some quick thoughts last night after John McCain’s win in South Carolina but let’s look at the race more closely.
Not much has changed, really, aside from a ratcheting up in the bitterness of the Clinton-Obama battle. Both Clinton and Obama are claiming victory in Nevada, with the former winning the popular vote and the latter “winning” a non-binding delegate count by one.
This win preserves Clinton’s momentum post-New Hampshire and strengthens my view that she’ll be the nominee. Obama had the support of the Culinary Workers Union and had the benefit of bizarre rules that had caucuses taking place in casinos so these workers could easily be mobilized and still lost. Still, Obama is expected to blow Clinton out in South Carolina, so he’ll get some momentum back and avoid a bandwagon effect.
Clinton will blow Obama away in Florida but get zero delegates for her effort. Whether that will matter in the minds of voters going into the Super Duper Tuesday primarypalooza remains to be seen.
John Edwards, meanwhile, is toast. There’s no real reason for him to quit the race but his lackluster support is embarrassing. He’ll likely come in a distant third even in his “home” state of South Carolina, adding insult to injury.
Romney still leads the delegate count by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. McCain is the frontrunner, though.
Partly, that’s a function of McCain’s cozy relationship with the media. Partly, that’s because the pundits continue to frame the story in terms of the traditional Iowa-New Hampshire-South Carolina script and are largely ignoring Michigan and Nevada, much less Wyoming. Partly, it’s because Romney remains a distant third in the national polls.
Duncan Hunter is officially out of the race. Who knew he was still running? One wonders to whom he’ll release his delegate.
Ron Paul will continue to run as long as he pleases. He can take some solace in a much-stronger-than-expected showing in the Nevada Caucuses but there remains no way he wins that doesn’t involve thermonuclear war and/or invasion from outer space.
Stick a fork in Fred Thompson; he’s done. Had he shocked the world and won — or even came in a respectable second — in South Carolina, he would have a reason to stay in the race. A distant third, though, pretty convincingly demonstrates that he doesn’t have a chance. The Rooskies might have a plan for winning under such circumstances but I don’t think Thompson does.
Jeff Emanuel wistfully bids his White Knight goodbye but acknowledges that “the Fred Thompson for President campaign suffered from being one of the most lackluster, disorganized, and uninspired electoral efforts that I can remember.” FDL’s Thers has a serious case of SchadenFred, though, noting that lamenting Thompson’s demise “is a bit like shutting the barn door after the horse fell asleep in the hay watching Matlock.”
Rudy Giuliani’s campaign comes down to a Hail Mary pass. And three of his offensive linemen are out of the game. And his best wide receiver just pulled a hammy. He’s staked his campaign in Florida, where he’s concentrated all his resources. The state has 57 delegates and it’s winner take all. McCain was already leading by three points and now he’s got momentum. If McCain wins, it’s hard to imagine many people in the Super Duper Tuesday states taking a risk on Giuliani. If Rudy wins, though, he’s suddenly very much in it. California, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and others could easily go into his column.
Mike Huckabee is on life support. Michelle Malkin pronounces last night’s loss in South Carolina, where his Southern accent and a huge trove of evangelical Christian voters gave him a decided advantage, “the end of Mike Huckabee.” I’m inclined to agree, even though he could still take several states on Super Duper Tuesday: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. I don’t see the math at this point, though. Those states just don’t have enough delegates.
So, it’s essentially a McCain-Romney race right now with Giuliani getting a play-in game on the 29th.
The acrimony between Clinton and Obama makes it unlikely that the loser would accept the second slot on the ticket. I’m not sure Clinton would have taken it, anyway. Edwards already did that once and was lousy at it; his ego is too strong to be a second banana. That would seem to leave the also-rans, Richardson or Biden, or the never-rans like Evan Bayh or Mark Warner or Phil Bredesen.
Would Romney or McCain or Giuliani take the number two slot if they don’t win the nomination? I can’t imagine any of them would. A McCain-Giuliani ticket would be intriguing — and certainly radically change the nature of the modern Republican party — but it’s not going to happen. McCain-Romney or Romney-McCain would just be too weird.
Huckabee and McCain have shrewdly gone out of their way to be civil to one another to avoid antagonizing the other camp. Could McCain tab Huckabee as his veep to shore up support among social conservatives? That’s a risky strategy, considering that Huckabee could be attacked as an extremist in the general.
Fred Thompson seems a more natural veep choice, since he’s much more mainstream. But if he doesn’t have the energy to campaign for himself, how hard is he going to work for someone else?
Delegate count graphics via CNN.