To that you might say, “Well, of course he still loses. He’s polling around 3% up there!” But that’s not entirely what I mean. Obviously, yet another miserable election result, in this case one in which Giuliani may be bringing up the very back of the pack, will confirm the narrative that “Giuliani is finished” and scare off the donors he needs to keep going, but it is worse than that. After tonight, Giuliani is no longer simply weakening, but he becomes basically irrelevant. His numbers in Florida (and now California) began dropping after New Hampshire, and after tonight they will all start to migrate to McCain. His campaign will likely stumble on for a few more weeks and then bid us farewell. (It is likely that he will endorse McCain, if he endorses anyone, since those two have rarely come to blows during the campaign.)
With McCain’s momentary success, we are seeing Giuliani being replaced completely as the ostensible national security/”leadership” candidate (with the added bonus that the replacement actually knows something about national security!). Most people now seem to see Giuliani’s candidacy for the irrelevancy and absurdity that it was. In all of American history, former mayors have never gone directly to being presidential nominees (even Grover Cleveland stopped over in Albany for a couple years before his election), and it was the ultimate arrogant display by an extremely arrogant man to make the attempt in the first place. Meanwhile, if Romney manages to win, he becomes the default anti-McCain, leaving no room for Giuliani anywhere. Even if Romney loses, he still has money to continue competing if he wants, while Giuliani cannot draw upon such a large personal reserve.
Now Romney is disliked by enough people already, and he keeps alienating enough people once they do learn about him, that McCain assumes his Dole/Kerry role of the inevitable frontrunner who may yet prove, in the end, to be inevitable. Huckabee will put up a decent fight through the Southern primaries, but he seems to have been successfully pigeonholed as the evangelical populist (despite his pretty thin populist credentials) and he has decided to embrace that role completely. On paper, Huckabee ought to be the right GOP nominee for this cycle, but it doesn’t seem to be happening as I thought it could.
Despite my absolutely atrocious record at predictions in the last couple of weeks, I shall offer up another batch, if only for your amusement. In this presidential campaign, making predictions for any reason seems to be a guaranteed path to failure and ridicule, but that’s never stopped me before. So, here it is: McCain wins tonight despite any poor weather that might be depressing turnout, but he wins only very narrowly. Romney finishes respectably close, but still finishes second, and his campaign starts to unravel, despite the best efforts of Hugh Hewitt to portray another embarrassing repudiation as a moral victory. Nevada and South Carolina then probably confirm the strange new world where McCain is winning more races than he is losing, and Florida then likewise goes to McCain. Huckabee wins in a few Southern states besides Arkansas, but then bows out before too much longer. The McCain-Huckabee ticket, which I foolishly regarded as improbable some weeks ago, now seems only too possible. In the end, if he were to be the nominee, McCain would probably not poke his finger in the establishment’s eye yet again with his veep selection by choosing someone so deeply disliked by much of that establishment. Then again, it might be just the kind of assertion of authority over the party that McCain would love to make.
All of that is subject to change in a few hours, when the terrible curse of a positive Larison prediction causes McCain to lose badly.