If Fred Thompson, for example, pulls out a win in South Carolina after losing in Iowa and New Hampshire, he will survive to limp into Super Tuesday, but he could not drive Romney, the presumptive Iowa and New Hampshire winner, out of the race. That means (if the polls six weeks out are reliable) Fred has no obvious path to become the one alternative to Rudy. A win for Fred in South Carolina will succeed only in making sure that the pro-life vote remains divided, and that no pro-life candidate will emerge to have a clear shot at taking on Giuliani.
Mike Huckabee is even less of a national contender, which may be why Rudy calls him "wonderful" instead of unmasking him, too. This week Pastor Mike practically whistled his admiration at Rudy's big muscles:
"Mitt's going to learn the hard way that if you go after Rudy, you better be prepared to take one upside the head, because Rudy's an experienced fighter and knows how to do it. Mitt may have jumped into the cage with a guy that knows not only how to take a punch but to deliver one back."
Is this the way a man from Hope announces he is running for vice president of the United States?
Again, Rudy knows it's either a one-man or a two-man race at this point. That's why he's hoping some early rapid-fire punches leave Mitt staggering on the ropes, and Rudy's path to victory unobstructed.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.