John McCain has just won a narrow but crucial victory in South Carolina's GOP primary, winning 33% of the vote against Huckabee's 30%, and adding further clarity to a race that has been a bit topsy-turvy. Call it "The Comeback RINO, part two" - McCain played his cards well in this evangelical and military-retiree heavy state. Meanwhile, out west, Mitt Romney won a decisive 51% win in the Nevada caucus, taking along with it more delegates than were at stake in South Carolina.
So where is the race now?
Duncan Hunter has officially dropped out today. Fred Thompson, who staked his ground in South Carolina but ended up way short of Huckabee and a distant third, is a press release away from the same. The pundits are casting aspersions on Rudy Guiliani's lifeless corpse of a campaign, which has shown no sign of life in the first 6 primaries; Florida is make-or-break for him; even Ron Paul has won more votes than Rudy. The media is unofficially calling Huckabee dead, as he was unable to parlay his Iowa win into anything but 2nd and 3rd place showings since, including the most evangelical state in the nation, South Carolina. His runner-up speech was defiant in his promise to his flock to keep on marching, but where will he win?
After Romney's wins and 'silvers' in early primaries, Romney now still leads in total votes and total delegates. He also likely is the one remaining candidate who can fund enough of a campaign to sustain the nationwide Super Tuesday on February 5th.
Thus, the race is down to McCain and Romney as the viable candidates with a shot at the nomination, and with McCain the annointed media frontrunner on the basis of his South Carolina win. Other candidates are battling increasingly long odds. It moves to Florida, which will now be a Battle Royale to further winnow the field. NRO says:
Florida is now in the spotlight and will have the job of disposing of Rudy and giving either McCain or Romney a leg up for Super Tuesday. When looking at the big prizes on Feb. 5, one must still assume that Rudy wins NY. But other then that it’s wide open (yes, even New Jersey) and the big prizes will be contested between McCain and Romney, largely decided by whether the polls are closed to independent voters or not.
Thus we have two secnarios. In one, McCain (or Romney) rolls on through Florida decisively and parlays that into a big Super Tuesday win. In the other, the Super Tuesday outcome is indecisive ... in which case, the GOP nomination could be decided by the voters in later primary states, like Texas.
Yes, it is possible the GOP nomination will get decided here in Texas.
Fredheads in state of grief