Carol Platt Liebau: The Shape of Things to Come?

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Shape of Things to Come?

Here is the Rasmussen Report for Florida, showing Romney with 25%, Giuliani and McCain with 19% and 20% respectively.

Could Florida be the shape of things to come? In recent days, Huckabee has fallen four percentage points from 17% to 13%, while Romney has gained seven. Both McCain and Giuliani have gained one.

The importance of Florida both to Giuliani and McCain can't be overstated. Giuliani needs to do well -- to win, really -- in order to stay viable heading into the big Super Tuesday contests, especially when he's trailed Ron Paul (yes, Ron Paul!) in South Carolina. John McCain needs to show he can win among Republicans, without relying on the votes of independents (although, if there's one argument for McCain being the nominee in the general, it's that he does seem to draw the votes of independents). Mike Huckabee, too, has something to prove -- that is, that his campaign isn't effectively over after his second place finish in South Carolina.

Mitt Romney, with a seven point gain, looks strong. He's the only candidate who has attempted to reach out to every element of the Reagan conservative coalition, and given the distaste many conservatives feel for McCain (remember the same old litany of anti-Bush tax cut, campaign finance and immigration), and the disfavor with which many pro-lifers view Giuliani, it strikes me as entirely possible that a lot of social conservatives who are giving up on Huckabee might view Romney as the next best alternative.

The Huckabee people are probably right in arguing that Thompson cost them a victory in South Carolina. What will be interesting, however, is to see where Thompson's people go if he pulls out (as now seems likely). To the extent that Huckabee's fifteen minutes are drawing rapidly to a close, strategic Thompson people won't want to go there.

Thompson may well endorse McCain, as he did in 2000. But what will be interesting is to see how much impact that has, given the widespread conservative dislike for John McCain.

If Romney wins Florida, and does so convincingly, it will be a clear sign that he's emerging as the consensus choice of Republicans.


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