On to South Carolina

Rich Galen

1/16/2008 10:57:03 AM - Rich Galen

Mitt Romney's resounding victory in Michigan last night has thrown the Blathering Class deep to their Pinot Noirs and Grigios looking for truth and guidance. The firm convictions and strong hunches which were held by the National Punditry as recently as New Year's Eve are now scattered like a child's box of crayons on the playroom floor.

To review the bidding, Mike Huckabee beat Mitt Romney in Iowa on January 3 by nine percentage points, 34-25. Although it wasn't a surprise by the time the caucuses rolled around, it was a huge hit to the Romney machine. Huckabee was all the rage.

Five days later, in New Hampshire, John McCain beat Romney by five percentage points, 37-32 with Huckabee coming in a faint third at 11%. McCain was all the rage.

Last night, in Michigan, Romney beat McCain by nine percentage points (as of this writing), 39-30 with Huckabee again limping in at 16% of the vote. Romney will, this morning, be all the rage.

In this strange, fore-shortened primary election cycle only Romney has had the resources to fight on all fronts, in all locations, simultaneously.

Because of that, candidates who have not competed in some states have not been gigged for it by the national political press. However, if you show up and run ads and say bad things about your opponents then you are in and you have to take your lumps.

In that regard, Huckabee would probably have been better off to have left Michigan to McCain and Romney and have headed straight to South Carolina after his weak showing in New Hampshire.

Thompson (for whom, I know you are tired of me telling you, I am a paid consultant) only showed up in New Hampshire long enough to participate in the debates on the Saturday and Sunday preceding the Primary before heading to the warmer climes and friendlier political winds of South Carolina.

Rudy Giuliani stuck a toe in the water in Iowa and New Hampshire and has been invisible here in South Carolina. He is planning to make his grand entrance in Florida which will hold its primary on January 29.

The pre-Michigan polling here has shown McCain with a five-ish point lead over the three-man pack composed of Romney, Huckabee and Thompson.

It is not giving away any family secrets to tell you that a Romney win in Michigan worked in Thompson's favor. Whatever bump Romney gets out of his win will still probably leave him within shouting distance of Thompson. A McCain win would have led to a bounce which, on top of his existing lead in the post-New Hampshire polling, would probably have put him out of Thompson's reach.

There is some chatter here that Huckabee and Romney have formed an alliance against McCain to stop him from getting the Republican country club vote (which they believe belongs to Romney) or the social conservative vote which they believe should be melded with the Evangelical vote in Huckabee's column.

The problem for any kind of grand alliance is it takes time for the pieces to be put in place and begin to function. The election here will be held this coming Saturday.

Shifting television buys from one section of the state to another provides really sophisticated fodder for the political insiders at Columbia or Charleston cocktail parties, but with only three days left, it is probably being done too late to have much effect on actual voters.

If true, the Huckabee/Romney axis smacks of an extremely defensive position which may well leave an opening for Thompson who has been drawing large crowds and his most favorable press coverage of the campaign.

It is not at all out of the question that South Carolina may provide the fourth different winner in the first four heavily contested states.