Well it must mean something. In politics, nobody ever wins or loses without meaning, do they? So here’s what I think about the Republican side of the contest for the presidency.
John McCain had a good night. He won about half of the states in play, and the remainder are split between his opponents. Still, he hasn’t put it away, and that’s what frontrunners do. The fact is that if the Huckabee and Romney votes were united (which may or may not have been possible), McCain would be in an even race. In the most conservative states to vote today – the Deep South – he lost to Huckabee, whose votes were sapped (to borrow a term) by Romney.
So what does this mean for McCain? It means that he isn’t winning; until he puts away Romney and particularly Huckabee, he’s only leading.
Mitt Romney, formerly the “conservative alternative” and fomentor of the “Huckabee should drop out and let Romney assume his votes” whispering campaign, has suffered a cruel blow. His finances are trashed, his reputation is damaged, and his momentum is dead. The cable news commentators are eager to sign the Romney campaign’s death certificate.
What does it all mean for Romney? It means that he now has to make the same uphill march that Huckabee has been making since South Carolina, with public perception, the other candidates, and the news media aligned against him. The guess from Righty Loosey is that he doesn’t have the temperment to keep on, and his big fade began today.
Mike Huckabee only won five states today, but he only had remote hopes of competing in six. In other words, Huckabee batted 5 for 6 in the states to which he devoted his resources. And suddenly, he has momentum. At this moment, as I write, he’s being coronated by the media elite as the second man in the new two-man-race.
What does it all mean for Huckabee? It means that crunch time starts now. Conservative Kansas votes on Saturday. Southern states yet to vote are Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas (which is an enormous bonanza of delegates), and Virginia. He can reasonably expect to do well in a few other states. But winning all these states without breaking through in the rest of the country will only get him a respectable second or third place finish. Huckabee needs to break out
Conclusion: I’ve made no secret of the fact that I detest Mitt Romney, and I’ll admit to you now that I find the events of this day thrilling. I’m a Huckabee guy, and I think McCain is just okay. So my bias is out in the open. That said, I think John McCain is still the obvious frontrunner, but his big lead may be deceptive and he may yet lose. I think that Romney’s campaign is in its death throes because his money and his credibility are running out. And I think that Mike Huckabee will never have a better opportunity to make hay. He needs to rake in all the money he can and run like a madman. Last of all, I think there’s never been a more fun, interesting Republican contest in my lifetime, and that’s something to savor.