South Carolina Primary

Everyone loses.

The exit polls in yesterday's South Carolina Primary provide some interesting insight. John McCain remains weak with mainstream Republicans. Mike Huckabee cannot win non-Evangelical conservatives. Romney/Thompson voters combine to take a larger percentage of Evangelicals than Huckabee. John McCain is a weaker overall candidate than he was eight years ago. Fred Thompson can't break fifteen percent, even with a totally focused effort in a conservative state in the South. Rudy is off the map.

In contrast to years past, South Carolina tells us nothing about who may be the eventual winner. However it did help winnow the field. Thompson will now drop out. You will now start to see Huckabee fade from the picture, as he has neither the standing nor the money to compete in Florida. Thompson and Huckabee voters will have to go somewhere. The Thompson voters will go to Rudy and Romney, and the Huckabee voters will spread pretty evenly across the whole field.

My view is that Florida will be just be another step in the winnowing process prior to Super Tuesday. The party will begin to line up around the more traditional voting blocks. Rather than each part of the "Reagan Coalition" being represented, the party will coalesce around a "mainstream conservative" and "a moderate/centrist" candidate. Evangelicals, realizing that they don't have the unity of numbers to drive a winning coalition, will break pretty evenly between the new blocks.

Florida will also resolve whether Rudy is a player. In the new paradigm, Rudy and Romney are competing for mainstream conservatives, and McCain is trying to draw enough centrist voters away from the traditional conservative coalition to be a viable national candidate.

Being a faithful Republican (and having faith in the conservative message), it has always been my view that the traditional coalition would emerge in tact with a candidate strengthened by the primary process. Although I have said from Day One that the Republican Primaries were a Romney/Rudy fight, I am now willing to concede that McCain will be with us until after Florida and into Super Tuesday. However, I would be shocked if he was left standing after Super Tuesday.

The only open question on the way to a Romney nomination is whether Rudy's "Late State" strategy works.


Terry Cowgill

6:42 AM

I had forgotten independents are permitted to vote in the SC primary. That would explain McCain's win in a conservative state despite his unpopularity with the right.

Did you see the Sunday NYT? Huge photo of McCain on A1, while Mitt's victory was buried inside. Guess they like "mavericks," which in this context are those who are the least conservative.