Super Tuesday’s Huckabee Surprise

The pundits had ignored Mike Huckabee since Florida. Then, on Tuesday night, the GOP voters throughout the Super Tuesday states went to the polls and voted en masse for the candidate who most shares their views and who brings back the Reagan luster to the Grand Old Party. Mike Huckabee’s showing on Tuesday night was nothing short of spectacular. Working with a limited campaign budget, written off for dead by the national media, disparaged by the conservative chattering class who opined that a “vote for Huckabee is a vote for McCain” Mike Huckabee showed that substance matters more than glitter and glamor. The Huckabee Revolution within the GOP is a very real phenomenon and those pundits who fail to recognize this groundswell will be forced to admit their lack of prescience as the Huckabee Republicans continue to assert greater influence on the direction of the Party. This year the grip of Wall Street and special interests, and even of talk radio hosts who are clueless about the mainstream of America, has been broken. Mike Huckabee has made his case to the American people and they have responded.

Evangelical Outpost Musings About the Meaning of Florida

I’m a bit pressed for time at the moment and I want to point you to an excellent piece by Joe Carter.  Here’s the substance of his analysis post-Florida for the GOP:

Citizen McCain:
Reflections on the FL Primary

John McCain — McCain didn’t just win Florida — he won the GOP nomination. Though many pundits, bloggers, and radio hosts will spend the next week trying to deny this obvious fact, it is the reality that we must face. Huckabee was critically wounded in South Carolina. Florida has finished off Giuliani. And Romney’s chances have also been crushed, though he thinks he is rich enough to buy an alternative reality. However, Romney can’t overcome the fact that when he faced McCain in NH, SC, and FL he was thrashed every time.

We have to give credit where its due. Team McCain has found a way to carry their candidate to victory. McCain’s campaign manager released the Path to the Nomination video back in December. At the time it seemed overly optimistic. Today, it appears prescient.

I’ll admit that I’m troubled by the idea of a McCain presidency. He still seems to me to be a cross between Conan and Charles Foster Kane: A fascinatingly flawed and haunted man whose main goal in life is to crush his enemies and see them driven before him.

Still, as John Mark Reynolds notes, “The good news is that unlike any Democrat running McCain is pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, against torture, and for winning the War on Terror.” True enough. Also, having McCain as the nominee really ticks off all the people that unfairly trashed Huckabee (Rush, Mark Levin, et. al.). It may not be enough to ease my discomfort over McCain, but it nevertheless brings me great pleasure.

°°°°°°Mitt Romney — One of the reasons that McCain will be the nominee is because the establishment tried to sell Mitt Romney as the “full-spectrum conservative” candidate. Apparently, the pro-Romney pundits thought we GOP voters are either extremely gullible or, more likely, that we have very short memories.

As primary voters in IA, NH, and FL discovered, Romney has previously supported many liberal positions, including abortion rights, the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a ban on “assault weapons”, government mandated health insurance, etc., ad naseum. Holding these positions today, however, would make him unelectable so he had to discard his deeply held pro-choice, pro-gay principles in favor of ones more palatable to the GOP base.

While it’s difficult to discern when the flip-flopping metamorphosis into a “full-spectrum” conservative was completed, we can be generous and say that it occurred in 2003, the first year he was Governor of Massachusetts. That would have given him a few months to backtrack from all his campaign promises. Now let’s put that date into perspective.

When Romney became a conservative he was 56 years old (4 years older than Mike Huckabee is today). The year Romney became a conservative we invaded Iraq and captured Saddam Hussein. The year Romney became a conservative Ruben Studdard won American Idol, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won the Oscar for Best Picture, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy premiered on Bravo. The year Romney became a conservative is the year I started this blog.

Think about that for a moment. Not only have people being reading blogs longer than Romney has been a conservative but people have been reading this blog longer than Romney has been a conservative.

Personally, I prefer to have a President who has spent a bit more time becoming familiar with conservative arguments, principles, traditions, and values. I suspect that outside of the elite pundit class, most conservatives feel the same. Romney may have been endorsed by National Review. But most conservative prefer to endorse a candidate who has actually read National Review.

°°°°°°Rudy Giuliani — Back in March I wrote about Irrational Exuberance and the Rudy Bubble:

On November 13, 1998, a little-known, privately-owned web portal called went public. Although the company had never made a profit and had a net loss of $11.5 million for the previous nine-month period, the stock jumped to $97. The first day the stock price rose 606%, setting a record for an initial public offering. In order to buy $1 of the company’s earnings—not profit, just earnings—investors were willing to pay roughly $1,388. (In comparison, people now pay around $47 for $1 of Google’s earnings.)
Eventually investors came to their senses and priced the company at its true value. Today you can buy a share of stock in for 4 cents.

How could otherwise sane investors pay so much for a company that was worth almost nothing? The answer is that they convinced themselves that the rules had changed. The internet had ushered in the “new economy” making the old valuations and metrics obsolete. Companies no longer had to make a profit in order to be worth billions; they just had to have a website.

It’s easy to look back on that era and scoff at such absurd behavior. But while we may not be so easily fooled by internet stocks the stock in political candidates is prone to bouts of “irrational exuberance.” Consider, for example, how otherwise serious people believe that Rudy Giuliani can actually be elected president. Many people have convinced themselves that the rules have changed and that social conservatives will discard their principles and embrace a candidate who has never held national office because of his imaginary credibility on “national security.”

In Florida, sanity prevailed and the Rudy bubble popped.

°°°°°°Mike Huckabee — The Huckabee campaign has taught us two lesson about election finances: (1) Having the most money doesn’t ensure an easy path to victory, and (2) Having the least money does ensure that the path to the nomination will be nearly impossible. As John Mark Reynolds says, ” Mike Huckabee would have been a major contender with the kind of money that either Rudy or Romney spent on the race.”

Fortunately, he still has enough money to stick around and bleed votes from Romney. That won’t be enough to secure the nomination but it will help show that he is a contender for 2012.

Ron Paul — What’s in a name? Consider that Paul received 60,000+ votes in FL running as a Republican. That’s enough for a weak fifth place showing. But what if instead of running as a Republican he had garnered that many votes as a Libertarian candidate. Then the achievement would have been much more impressive. (Counter-argument: Paul could not have sparked that much interest running as a third-party candidate.)

°°°°°°Outlook Last week I said, “A Clinton-Obama/Obama-Clinton ticket would be unbeatable in the general election. While McCain would do slightly better than Romney, both would be crushed by the Democratic landslide.” I’d modify that somewhat. An Obama/Anyone ticket would be a disaster for McCain. An Obama/Hillary would be a tighter race, but not much better. A Hillary/Obama matchup against McCain/Huckabee would be a nail-biter. But as of now, I’d still think the Democrats would win.

I’ll be posting my own analysis later of where the GOP stands and how the party got to this point.  It is a bit of delicious irony that the unfettered vituperative attacks by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, National Review, Michelle Malkin, et al derailed the Huckabee momentum coming out of Iowa and has given us the ascendancy of the McCain campaign.  Now Limbaugh et al are frothing at the mouth at the prospect that the GOP will nominate someone whom they view as a moderate and not a genuine conservative.  Well, folks, you’re getting what you deserve!

Florida Primary Day Poll Results

Here are the latest numbers from Real Clear Politics:

Florida Republican Primary

Tuesday, January 29 | Delegates at Stake: 57 (Winner Take All)

Poll Date Sample McCain Romney Giuliani Huckabee Paul Spread
RCP Average 01/22 to 01/28 30.7 30.1 14.9 12.7 3.6 McCain +0.6
InsiderAdvantage 01/28 – 01/28 813 LV 31 30 15 13 2 McCain +1.0
SurveyUSA 01/27 – 01/28 979 LV 32 31 15 13 6 McCain +1.0
Reuters/CSpan/Zogby 01/27 – 01/28 941 LV 35 31 13 13 2 McCain +4.0
Mitchell Research 01/27 – 01/28 964 LV 32 34 13 10 3 Romney +2.0
Rasmussen 01/27 – 01/27 578 LV 31 31 16 11 4 Tie
Suffolk 01/25 – 01/27 400 LV 30 27 13 11 4 McCain +3.0
Strategic Vision (R) 01/25 – 01/27 600 LV 27 26 17 15 5 McCain +1.0
Quinnipiac 01/24 – 01/27 585 LV 32 31 14 13 3 McCain +1.0
Mason-Dixon 01/22 – 01/23 400 LV 26 30 18 15 3 Romney +4.0
See More Florida Republican Primary Polls | Chart

I promised official predictions over the weekend, but the fluidity of the race caused me to hold back a little longer than I had anticipated.  After analyzing the latest polls, the early voting patterns and the perceived impact of the endorsement of John McCain by Mel Martinez and Gov. Crist, I am changing my earlier predictions of a Romney win by 2% over McCain.

Romney played strong in Florida and his economic message certainly has made the race closer than earlier anticipated by some.  However, I don’t think the economic climate moved substantially last week, thus I don’t think Mitt will be able to realize the gains that I earlier had predicted he might.  Because the economic news didn’t quite play out the way I thought last week and the early voting and the Florida GOP establishment coming out for McCain in the last couple of days, I now predict a McCain victory by 3% over Romney with Giuliani coming in a distant third (about 8% behind McCain).   The race could be tighter, perhaps only a one or two percent difference between McCain and Romney, but I just don’t think that Romney will be able to overcome the early voting and the Florida GOP establishment advantage that McCain has gained.  I hope I’m wrong about this prediction and that my earlier prediction of a Romney win by 2% comes to fruition.  We’ll see.

On to Super Tuesday!!

New GOP Numbers Out of Florida

Here’s the very latest RCP results from Florida:

Florida Republican Primary

Tuesday, January 29 | Delegates at Stake: 57 (Winner Take All)

Poll Date Sample McCain Romney Giuliani Huckabee Paul Spread
RCP Average 01/20 to 01/24 25.3 25.0 18.5 15.5 4.2 McCain +0.3
SurveyUSA 01/23 – 01/24 550 LV 30 28 18 14 6 McCain +2.0
InsiderAdvantage 01/23 – 01/23 501 LV 23 22 18 16 4 McCain +1.0
Rasmussen 01/23 – 01/23 675 LV 23 27 20 15 4 Romney +4.0
Mason-Dixon 01/22 – 01/23 400 LV 26 30 18 15 3 Romney +4.0
Strategic Vision (R) 01/20 – 01/22 606 LV 25 20 22 18 5 McCain +3.0
Herald/SPT/Bay9 01/20 – 01/22 800 LV 25 23 15 15 3 McCain +2.0
See More Florida Republican Primary Polls | Chart

Today’s Prime Time Devotional

I receive a number of devotional emails every day.  I try to read through each of them, in addition to my standard time of prayer and Bible reading that I endeavor to accomplish each day.  One of the devotional emails that I receive is from Ephesians Four Ministries and is entitled, “Prime Time with God.”

I particularly enjoyed today’s devotional content.  I am currently involved in an in depth study of Church History for one of my seminary classes and have read extensively about the differences between the Hebraic thought and the Greek, or Hellenist, thought.  Here’s the text of today’s devotional from Ephesians Four Ministries:

 Greek versus Hebraic
TGIF Today God Is First Volume 2, by Os Hillman

“I will bend Judah as I bend my bow and fill it with Ephraim. I will rouse your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and make you like a warrior’s sword” (Zech 9:13). In the early church there was an emphasis on developing a heart toward God. This was the Hebraic way. The scriptures were not accessible like they are for us. So, the relationship with God was the key focus. God related to his people on a personal and intimate level. And obedience was the key to a healthy relationship with God. Decisions were not made based on reason and analysis, but by obedience. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10).

This is why many of the miracles performed in the Bible went against natural reason, (i.e. feeding five thousand, crossing the Red Sea, retrieving a coin from a fish’s mouth, walking around Jericho to win a battle, etc.) God constantly wanted to check the leader’s obedience, not his knowledge. Knowledge and reason came into the early Church with the Greek scholars in subsequent centuries. This is when the church began to affirm oratory skills among Church leaders. Gradually, over many centuries the focus on knowledge and reason has become more accepted in the Church.

Loss of intimacy with God has been the fallout as a result of the influence of the Greek spirit. The primary focus has been teaching and discipleship instead of the development of a personal and intimate relationship with God. This has resulted in a form of religion, but one without power.

In the early church, the rabbi was there primarily for quality control, not as the primary teacher and speaker. He did not even address the people from an elevated platform. The whole congregation was in a more circular format, each sharing what they believed God was saying. The focus was on the power of God working through each individual, not one individual (1 Cor. 14:26).

Is your focus on gaining more knowledge or growing in intimacy and power with Jesus? He desires to know you intimately.

Latest Florida GOP Poll Results

Here are the very latest poll results from Florida.  This chart courtesy of Real Clear Politics.

Florida Republican Primary

Tuesday, January 29 | Delegates at Stake: 57 (Winner Take All)

Poll Date McCain Romney Giuliani Huckabee Paul Thompson Spread
RCP Average 01/20 to 01/22 22.6 22.2 19.0 14.4 5.4 7.3 McCain +0.4
Strategic Vision (R) 01/20 – 01/22 25 20 22 18 5 6 McCain +3.0
Herald/SPT/Bay9 01/20 – 01/22 25 23 15 15 3 4 McCain +2.0
InsiderAdvantage 01/20 – 01/21 18 24 19 12 7 Romney +5.0
Rasmussen 01/20 – 01/20 20 25 19 13 5 12 Romney +5.0
SurveyUSA 01/20 – 01/20 25 19 20 14 7 7 McCain +5.0
See More Florida Republican Primary Polls | Chart

Subsequent polls should continue to tighten.  Tonight’s MSNBC sponsored GOP debate will prove interesting because of the bad blood that exists between Romney and McCain.  I expect fireworks as Romney continues to pound away at his “Washington is Broken” message and ties McCain to the brokenness.  Huckabee will be looking to speak to the Super Tuesday voters tonight as well as in the CNN sponsored California debate coming up next week.  Right now, I’m pretty comfortable with the tentative predictions I made in an earlier post this week about how Florida will play out.  I’ll finalize those predictions this weekend once the debate has happened and a few more days of polling data come in.  One thing to keep in mind is that Florida is an early voting state and a number of voters have already cast ballots.  Rudy has camped out in Florida and is competing for the same pool of moderate GOP voters as McCain.  Is it possible that Rudy siphoned enough of those voters off during the early voting period as to make the polls showing McCain leading a bit inaccurate?  We’ll see.

BTW, thanks to everyone who responded and commented on my previous posting.  We’re all hoping for a Huckabee victory in Florida and on Super Tuesday, but we also are faced with making serious decisions if that does not occur.  Who among the GOP candidates could you support if Huckabee fails to win the nomination?  Leave a comment or email me with your answer and why to: christfollowerblog [at] gmail [dot] com

Michelle Malkin calls out John McCain

Okay, so I’ve been a bit upset in the last several weeks by Michelle’s inaccurate (in my opinion) representations of Gov. Huckabee’s positions and record.  However, here’s a piece that really has me thinking about what she’s saying about McCain.  She’s right about his positions and stances.  Has he changed or does he continue to treasure the thought of giving amnesty to the millions of illegals here who have flaunted our laws?

Malkin’s entire post is worth reading but I’ll excerpt a few salient quotes here:

After spearheading a disastrous, security-undermining illegal alien amnesty bill last year with Teddy Kennedy, “straight-talking” GOP Sen. John McCain claims he has seen the light. In TV appearances, he vows to put immigration enforcement first. On the campaign trail, he offers a perfunctory promise to strengthen border security and emphasizes the need to restore Americans’ trust in their government’s ability to defend the homeland.

I got the message,” he told voters in South Carolina. “We will secure the borders first.”

But how can McCain cure citizens’ distrust when his own credibility on the issue remains fatally damaged? He doesn’t believe his own election-year spin. And he knows we know it. This is cynicism on steroids with a speedball chaser.

Not all of us have forgotten how the short-fused Arizona senator cursed good-faith opponents in his own party

His admission of the shamnesty failure is grudging and bitter. While he now tells conservative voters what they want to hear about the need to build the southern border fence, he takes a contemptuous tone toward physical barriers when talking to businessmen. “By the way, I think the fence is least effective,” he told executives in Milwaukee, according to a recent Vanity Fair profile. “But I’ll build the g.d. fence if they want it.” Straight talk? Try hate talk.

For all his supposed, newfound enlightenment about what most Americans want—protection against invasion, commitment to the rule of law, meaningful employer sanctions, an end to sanctuary cities, enforcement-by-attrition plus deportation reform, and an end to special illegal alien benefits that invite more law-breaking–The Maverick remains a Geraldo Rivera Republican. Like the ethnocentric cable TV host who can’t string a sentence about immigration together without drowning in emotional demagoguery, McCain naturally resorts to open-borders platitudes when pressed for enforcement specifics.

I’ll admit that I’m really struggling to come to terms with whom I could support if Gov. Huckabee is not the GOP nominee.  Sen. McCain is extremely strong on national security and that issue is, of course, of great concern in the times in which we live.  Gov. Romney has a trackrecord of successful financial dealings and economic turnarounds.  The economy is becoming a larger issue every day and I fear that other candidates may not have the expertise and acumen to orchestrate a turnaround of the economy in the same way that Gov. Romney may be able to accomplish.  I lost a great deal of respect for McCain during the immigration debate.  I lost a great deal of respect for Romney when he resorted to dirty campaigning against Huckabee in Iowa when he saw his precious “slingshot” momentum strategy endangered by the upstart former preacher.

I am, I admit, perplexed.  The GOP establishment has fought long and hard against the Huckabee candidacy.  With the loss in SC, it is entirely possible that they have succeeded in derailing Huckabee this election cycle.  I hope not, but it is likely that Huckabee will continue to face financial difficulties that will greatly impede his ability to get out his message.  I could not, would not, support Rudy in any circumstance.  If I remain in the GOP camp this election, which of the two remaining candidates (Romney or McCain) could I support and not feel resentment for having to do so?  At this point, I have no answer.

The GOP Race in Florida

Here are the latest polls coming out of Florida, courtesy of Realclearpolitics:

Florida Republican Primary

Tuesday, January 29 | Delegates at Stake: 57 (Winner Take All)

Poll Date McCain Giuliani Romney Huckabee Thompson Paul Spread
RCP Average 01/09 to 01/20 23.3 20.0 19.3 16.0 8.3 5.5 McCain +3.3
Rasmussen 01/20 – 01/20 20 19 25 13 12 5 Romney +5.0
SurveyUSA 01/20 – 01/20 25 20 19 14 7 7 McCain +5.0
InsiderAdvantage 01/15 – 01/16 20 21 20 13 7 6 Giuliani +1.0
Research 2000 01/14 – 01/16 26 22 16 17 7 5 McCain +4.0
Strategic Vision (R) 01/11 – 01/13 27 18 17 20 10 5 McCain +7.0
Quinnipiac 01/09 – 01/13 22 20 19 19 7 5 McCain +2.0
See More Florida Republican Primary Polls | Chart

The numbers are all over the place but, on average, McCain holds a 3-4 point lead over Rudy and Mitt. Florida is definitely in play and will decide whether McCain can keep the momentum and gain fundraising traction for the Super Tuesday and later primaries. For Rudy, Florida is do or die. A loss in the state that he has staked his hopes on and skipped all earlier primaries for, would be the death knell of his candidacy. Huckabee is talking about not playing actively in Florida and instead focusing on Super Tuesday states that have GOP electorates which most closely resemble his winning coalition in Iowa. For Romney, Florida is his best chance to reestablish himself as a viable candidate and to beat McCain in a diverse state in which the primary is for registered GOP voters only…no independents or Democrats, unlike the composition of McCain’s winning coalitions in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Personally, as a Huckabee supporter, I hope Mitt wins Florida so that the GOP field continues to have no frontrunner, thus improving Huckabee’s chances if he can pick up some significant Super Tuesday wins in states with large evangelical populations.

There is also another reason why I hope Mitt wins Florida, notably, the economic concerns that are beginning to take center stage in this election do not favor McCain. On national security, McCain is golden. However, his economic positions are not always in line with traditional conservative philosophy. Mitt has an economic message that reflects his long and successful career in the private sector, plus his impressive turnaround of the economic condition of Massachusetts when he became governor there. With that said, Huckabee’s turnaround of the Arkansas economy is much more impressive and his active embracing of the FairTax plan, a plan which would instantly propel America to the forefront of the world economy again, are reasons why people outside of the evangelical Christian circle should also be seriously considering supporting Gov. Huckabee.

Because we are still a week away from the Florida primary, I am going to delay making a concrete prediction until this weekend. However, I think the economic news this week will shift support to Romney and that Rudy and McCain will be fighting for the support of national security conservatives and those most concerned about the global war on terror. If Huckabee decides not to play hard in Florida, then Romney may well be able to cobble together a winning coalition. At this point (subject to change by the time of my official weekend predictions) I am leaning toward predicting a Romney win by 2% over McCain with Rudy finishing third about 6% behind Romney.

Finally, here are some thoughts from Gov. Huckabee about the state of the campaign after South Carolina:

Post Mortem on SC GOP Primary

Well, Sen. McCain did what he needed to do in South Carolina. The Senator carried the state that doomed his 2000 Presidential hopes. The win was impressive but not unforeseen. Gov. Huckabee needed to win SC. His loss in this Southern primary is a significant defeat because he needed to prove he could win in territory that should have been very hospitable to his message. Unfortunately, the constant negative attacks by the conservative punditry finally made an impact. Isn’t it ironic that folks like Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin, not to mention the National Review and others, may be responsible for handing the nomination to McCain, a candidate whom they despise perhaps as much or more than Huckabee, simply because they derailed the Huckabee momentum by distorting and lying about his record. Even Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost has taken a decisively pessimistic outlook about Gov. Huckabee’s chances now that he’s lost SC. Here’s what Joe blogged after McCain’s win in SC yesterday:

The Moderate Maverick’s Momentum:
Reflections on the SC Primary

Kudos to McCain — He’s a moderate Senator, a terrible campaigner, and tends to be his own worst enemy. Yet John McCain managed to pull off a win in a close race against a conservative governor and the best campaigner in the race. I’m impressed. McCain knocked out the two most conservative candidates—Thompson and Huckabee—which should make it easy to best the two remaining moderates—Romney and Giuliani. The race is now McCain’s to lose. If he doesn’t get in his own way, he should have a clear path to the nomination.

The Fat Lady Clears Her Throat — Governor Huckabee needed to win South Carolina. He didn’t. I don’t want to say its over because miracles are still possible (a win in Florida would put him back in contention) but it isn’t likely he’ll be the Republican nominee.

Prediction — In a few weeks, when the conservative punditry realizes that a man they truly despise (McCain) will be the eventual nominee, they’ll suddenly “discover” that Huckabee’s record and positions were more conservative than they had led people to believe. The admission will lead to a backlash among conservatives who trusted that the pundits were telling the truth about Huckabee rather than unfairly maligning him because they were ashamed to have a barefoot hillbilly preacher as the head of their party.

The Other Side — Because they are both first-term Senators, both Clinton and Obama would normally need to add someone with experience (either a governor or a general) to their ticket. But the GOP is so weak this year that they don’t need to play it safe. Indeed, the smartest move would be for them to set aside their differences and join forces. A Clinton-Obama/Obama-Clinton ticket would be unbeatable in the general election. While McCain would do slightly better than Romney, both would be crushed by the Democratic landslide.

Just Say No — If McCain is smart he’ll offer the VP slot to Huckabee. If Huckabee is smart he’ll turn it down. The failure of John Edwards campaign is a reminder that the country doesn’t like general election losers. Rather than being on the losing ticket in ’08, Huckabee should sit out the race and wait until 2012.

Can’t Buy Him Love — Republicans are far too impressed by wealth and business acumen (neither of which are relevant qualities for being a successful POTUS) so it isn’t surprising that Romney appeals to the GOP establishment. Still, it has become obvious that Romney would no longer be in the race if he were not a very, very, very wealthy man. He spent over $100 million in Iowa and New Hampshire for two second place finishes and another $4 million in SC only to come in a distant fourth place. He also spent who knows how much to win uncontested races in Wyoming and Nevada. That is simply astounding. The GOP could add “Generic Super-Rich Guy” on the ballot and pull in 15% of the primary vote in every state, yet Romney hasn’t done much better than that. How much more money will Romney spend before he realizes that it’s over?

Foreshadowing — Anyone wondering what went wrong in the Huckabee campaign should read this article in Thursday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal. It says more than I can say.

Bumrushed — Rush Limbaugh spent the past week disparaging both McCain and Huckabee. Yet both men took the top two slots in one of the most conservative states in the union. What does that say about Rush’s influence?

Goodbye, Fred — Jeff Emanuel has an excellent post-mortem on Thompson. The only thing that I’d add is that I’ve lost a great deal of respect for the Senator. I was a FredHead from the beginning but he turned out not to be the man I thought he was.

Other AnalysisJohn Mark Reynolds provides a more succinct and astute analysis that I can provide. I think he is spot on (at least up to point #5).

Tomorrow, I’ll provide my analysis of Florida and what is likely to happen there. It is likely that Florida will be the deciding factor in whether anyone other than McCain will be able to win the nomination.

All GOP Eyes on South Carolina

What the pundits have called a “muddled” GOP race for the presidential nomination now moves to South Carolina.  Tomorrow should be an interesting day as the weather threatens to be a bit on the nasty side and the state-wide polls show a great deal of vacillation among likely GOP voters.   Rasmussen is reporting a dead heat between Mike Huckabee and John McCain, both at 24% of the vote.

Here’s the Realclearpolitics breakdown of the polls leading into tomorrow’s primary:

South Carolina Republican Primary

Saturday, January 19 | Delegates at Stake: 24*

Poll Date McCain Huckabee Romney Thompson Paul Giuliani Spread
RCP Average 01/14 to 01/17 28.2 23.3 16.7 13.8 4.2 3.3 McCain +4.9
FOX News 01/16 – 01/17 27 20 15 11 4 3 McCain +7.0
Reuters/CSpan/Zogby 01/15 – 01/17 29 22 15 13 4 2 McCain +7.0
Rasmussen 01/16 – 01/16 24 24 18 16 5 3 Tie
SurveyUSA 01/16 – 01/16 29 26 17 17 5 3 McCain +3.0
American Res. Group 01/15 – 01/16 33 23 20 13 1 4 McCain +10.0
Mason-Dixon 01/14 – 01/16 27 25 15 13 6 5 McCain +2.0
See More South Carolina Republican Primary Polls | Chart

The race will probably be quite tight, though Romney’s win in Michigan will hopefully curtail the gains made by McCain in SC and give Huckabee the edge when the votes are actually cast.

Huckabee continues to take an unfair beating at the hands of pundits such as Michelle Malkin (click here for her latest anti-Huckabee diatribe) and Rush Limbaugh.  Limbaugh recently made a statement to the effect that the GOP will be destroyed if either Huckabee or McCain get the nomination.  Talk about histrionics from El Rushbo!  All of this has led Joe Carter at the Evangelical Outpost to opine the following:

Huckabee’s Problem (Part I) — Romney’s win in MI helps clear a path for Huckabee to win SC. But I’m not so sure it matters anymore.

A large section of the GOP has made it quite clear that they will do whatever it takes to ensure that the hillbilly preacher doesn’t win the nomination. Many of them–and we all know who they are–will lie about his record and his positions in order to put an end to his campaign. They know that while they may lose the trust of a few people, most will let them get away with the deceit since “that’s politics.”

To those people who told me that I was naïve, let me say: You were more right than you know. I never, ever would have believed that “our people” would do this sort of thing. I thought the primary would be a fair fight in which to decide who would be the best candidate. Now I know better.

Huckabee’s Problem (Part II) — Huckabee can’t overcome the forces lined up against him. Still, he doesn’t need to make their hateful task any easier. He won Iowa and then showed that he hadn’t prepared for the scenario the campaign might continue after January 5th. He squandered his momentum by not releasing a major policy proposal since before the caucus. He’s failed to add new staff or to expand his organization. And while he has the ability to appeal to a broad range of voters he continues to act as if he is only interested in the religious crowd.

Worst of all, he’s allowed his enemies to distort his record and his positions. Huckabee has remained silent while Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, and Mark Levin go on the radio every day and call him a “liberal.” Even their loyal listeners are tired of such nonsense, which is why he should call them all out publicly, challenging them to “put up or shut up.” By revealing that they don’t know what they’re talking about–they’re just repeating the talking points put out by the Romney campaign–Huckabee would shore up the conservative base that he’s been losing.

The time is now, Governor. Start fighting back before it’s too late.

Is That A Dark Cloud Forming? — I know its early in the race and I don’t want to be pessimistic but I have to ask: Doesn’t it look like we’re going to have a Democrat in the White House next year?

I agree with Joe that Gov. Huckabee must fight back vociferously against the unfair attacks and untruths that have been aimed at him and his record.  The constant negative drumbeat by the supposed conservative intelligentsia is causing problems on the trail.  South Carolina is vitally important for Huckabee to win.  Absent a win there, the trail to Super Tuesday becomes even more ominous.