Last night marked the third debate among the GOP candidates in the past five nights. As last night's debate on Fox began, it was 64 degrees in Myrtle Beach. That is (including wind chill) an increase of 82 degrees from Iowa about 10 days ago.
The Fox Debate started at 9:00 PM - which is an hour later than the debate Fox sponsored in New Hampshire this past Sunday. Why? Because Bill O'Reilly is not on Fox on Sunday nights. He is on Thursday nights.
Fox already ditched O'Reilly once this week - having gone with election returns from the New Hampshire Primary election on Tuesday night when the polls closed at 8:00 PM. They were not going to run the risk of losing the revenue generated by advertisers looking to O'Reilly's 2.8 million viewers twice in the same week.
In the filing center prior to the debate, reporters were treated to a 30-foot image at the front of the room of Bill O'Reilly wrapping up his show. I commented to several that this was longer than 90% of the reporters in the room had previously watched O'Reilly - total, in their whole lives.
The runoff from the electoral storm which washed across New Hampshire Tuesday is that Gov. Mitt Romney has declared he is shifting his resources from South Carolina and Florida to make a stand in his home state of Michigan.
Sen. John McCain is contesting Michigan - a state he won in 2000 - as is Gov. Mike Huckabee. If Romney loses Michigan - to either man - his campaign will be effectively over thus making any further expenditures in SC or FL throwing good money after bad.
Rudy Giuliani's campaign has re-tooled its strategy, deciding to move resources out of Michigan and South Carolina and into Florida.
That being the case, South Carolina is now a three man race between Mike Huckabee, John McCain and Fred Thompson (for whose campaign I am a paid advisor).
In 2000, McCain came into South Carolina riding the same wave of a strong, surprise win in New Hampshire. The campaign of then-Governor George W. Bush used every technique - some of questionable judgment - to defeat McCain here, restoring Bush's forward momentum leading, ultimately, to the nomination.
The debate is now over. Thompson, judging from the congratulations I improperly received in the hotel bar afterwards, had his best performance.
To the extent that Thompson's third place finish in Iowa and a long second look here in South Carolina is evidence of a resurgence, it began with that debate in Des Moines when Thompson refused to raise his hand to indicate whether or not he thought global warming was an important issue.
Whether the Myrtle Beach debate will ignite a second stage in his nomination launch vehicle remains to be seen. But, it is better to have been declared the winner than being described as having shown up.
Given the surprises in New Hampshire Tuesday night, we might well still have a long way to go in this process.
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