Channelling my inner Mickey Kaus here: With Thompson out of the race, true-blue conservative voters in Florida have to find somebody new to vote for. Right now, in the RCP average of recent polls, McCain is edging Giuliani, with Romney right behind and Huckabee a not-distant fourth. Assume this average is an accurate picture of the race as it stands, and assume further that the Thompson voters split between Romney and Huckabee (which seems likely). If they split evenly, that gives Romney the win. Bad for McCain, no? Yes, he comes in a close second – but Florida is winner-take-all. And McCain is already lagging both in total votes and total delegates. This would seem to be a dream scenario for Romney, wouldn’t it?
But wait: if the Thompson voters split between Romney and Huckabee, what happens to Giuliani? That’s right: he comes in fourth. In Florida, his firewall. That pretty much toasts his campaign. And right now, Giuliani is the toughest competition McCain faces in New York and New Jersey, both of which are also winner-take all, and which together have roughly 3 times the delegates of Florida. If Giuliani comes in fourth in Florida, I’d expect him to sink in his northeast stronghold, and for the largest share of his voters to defect to McCain. Which could well mean that a close Romney victory over McCain in Florida, if it pushes Giuliani out of contention, could wind up redounding to McCain’s benefit on Super-Duper Tuesday.
Or, you know, not. I mean, a Florida win by Romney could push him over the top in Georgia, California, Illinois – who knows? None of those are winner-take-all, but if Romney wins all of them he’ll be the most national candidate and hence the nominee. (Indeed, I expect whoever wins California to be the nominee.)
All I’m saying is: right about now, this is a lot more fun than the credit markets.