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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Thoughts On Last Night's GOP Results

Fascinating results. The biggest story, I think, is that Mike Huckabee seems to have a new lease on life as a candidate in his own right. (Silly me -- just yesterday I left Huckabee for dead.) That is, for at least a little while, the story line on Huckabee isn't going to be that he's just obstructing Romney's shot at beating McCain in a one-on-one showdown. Rather, it'll be whether Huckabee can emerge as the conservative alternative to McCain.

MSNBC ran a banner last night quoting unnamed Romney staffers as saying that today would be a day of "frank discussions". The intimation was that, after missing in California, Romney might decide to pull out now in order to preserve viability for 2012 or later. Obviously it'll be interesting to see how that turns out, given the hostility to McCain from some GOP base leaders, because if Romney does pull out, then there will be a clear contest between McCain and Huckabee. Huckabee's underfunded and doesn't have the sort of media bandwagon that McCain has enjoyed for a long time, but he also stirs lots of grass roots excitement.

As of now, RealClearPolitics has the GOP delegate count at 604 for McCain, 244 for Romney, and 187 for Huckabee (with Ron Paul at 14). I believe it takes just short of 1200 to win the nomination (I think it's 1191, though I could be off on that). So McCain is more than half way there. Interestingly, though, he's gotten that far via generally weak  pluralities in a number of delegate-rich winner-take-all contests. So a Romney exit could really change the dynamics of the race if it gave Huckabee a clear shot at McCain, particularly if Romney then threw his delegates to Huckabee. On the other hand, (a) McCain has an awful lot of momentum right now, and (b) however large the distaste for McCain among conservatives, especially social conservatives, it's worth noting that Huckabee has drawn massive ire from the low-taxes wing of the GOP. The interesting question should Romney drop out (or functionally disappear as a serious candidate) is whether the low-taxes wing will raise enough money and votes for McCain to offset the anti-McCain feelings among the Dobsons, Limbaughs, Bay Buchanans, Coulters, and so on.

Finally, I'll note that this morning, McCain contracts were trading at over 90 cents on the dollar on intrade.com. That means that the marginal person betting on all this gives McCain more than a 90% chance at the nomination. That's pretty high, but even based on my discussion above, McCain losing seems very unlikely at the moment.

At least for now, it looks like the state of the GOP race is that the nomination is McCain's to lose.

Posted by Jonah Gelbach on February 6, 2008 at 01:36 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink

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