That was interesting. It's clear from the contests thus far this year that nobody knows who the Republican candidate will be. Nobody's got any momentum and I think that this really plays into Rudy Giuliani's strategy to hit Florida hard and then use a big win there to catapult him into the nomination on Super Tuesday. Of course, I think he's gotten to that point because he won't be the nominee...he shouldn't need to campaign in every state as hard as the other candidates to at least make a respectable showing, but he's been stuck in the ~3% range in every contest. I know that he hasn't done much, but you're no longer a top-tier candidate when you have that poor of a showing anywhere. This is good news for everybody not named John McCain because if he carried the state, he'd be the unequivocal leader of the pack and could have steamrolled to the nomination. As things stand right now, it's almost anybody's ballgame. Let's go to the good/bad (GOP only as the Democrats boycotted the state) and then play Vegas oddsmaker for the candidates as well as soothsayer.
Good: Another third place finish for Huckabee. I saw him give his concession speech on Fox News and I was happy that it was that time again, but I actually like him a bit more as a result of it. Not to change my position or anything, but he's less unpalatable than he once was.
Bad: McCain's second place finish puts everything back up for grabs. That means that almost anyone could get the nomination. Right now everything is so unsettled that even after Super Tuesday we may not have a clear winner.
Sorro's Candidate Odds
Mitt Romney: 5:1. Even though he leads in the delegate count, I can't give him better odds than this. He'll clean up in the Mountain states (in every Utah poll he's got at least 60% of the vote from likely primary voters), the problem with that is we don't have much pull. He'll cover a lot of ground, but not have many delegates to show for it. I don't know if the Michigan win was a case of home court advantage or a sign of strength in the Rust Belt. I would lean towards the former because it makes more sense, but if he could string together some wins in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, it makes it distinctly possible that he could be the nominee.
John McCain: 3:1. McCain's been strong in every place he's run, with the exception of Iowa. He was even pretty respectable there given that it was a caucus state and he didn't have anybody on the ground to get out the vote. Likewise, he's currently leading Huckabee in South Carolina and if he wins in this state, it will probably be a Romney/McCain battle for the rest of the nation. In that scenario, McCain would play better in the South because of the fear of Romney among evangelicals and he could very well do better in blue states - especially the Northeast and California. I see him as the candidate with the best chance to win, but it's still a toss-up right now.
Mike Huckabee: 7:1. This number could change with a win in South Carolina, while it will drop precipitously with a loss. If he can't win in South Carolina, his natural Southern constituency (which might be pulled somewhat by Thompson) will end up not being a support to him and he won't get the nod. Really, the next contest is do-or-die for him. A win would keep things unsettled, but a loss would most likely see the rest of the states coalesce around McCain and Romney the rest of the way in.
Ron Paul: 10,000:1. Paul has run an admirable campaign and consistently gathered around 10% of votes, more than either Giuliani or Thompson. At the end of the day though he's still a fringe candidate who really doesn't stand a chance of winning.
Rudy Giuliani: 999:1. Rudy's the least long of the long shots because he actually does lead a state (Florida, within the margin of error) and because he has long been part of the front-running pack. At the same time, he's run a terrible campaign that might have worked in New York City (part of the problem he had was relying on his NYC contingent instead of getting some national advisers) but doesn't resonate elsewhere. He could play well in Florida and New York state and maybe win both primaries, but I don't know that he'll do much more than that. It's always possible that the uncertainty at the top could catapult him ahead, but it's doubtful.
Fred Thompson: 10,000:1. Poor Fred Thompson. Everybody loved him when he was the DA on Law & Order, but now that he's tossed his hat in the ring he gets no respect. Part of that is because of a lackluster campaign that didn't capitalize on his Reaganesque life and career (really, he is a commanding presence on the screen) but instead flittered away his benefits and made him look like he should have stayed back with Sam Waterston.
Duncan Hunter: 1,000,000:1. The fact that he's still in speaks volumes about him. Not only does he believe what he does despite the odds, he's also a glutton for punishment.
If I were to say how things would go right now, I would say that the Republican nomination won't be decided until the convention. We have a group of candidates that aren't galvanizing enough for people to jump behind from the get-go, and there are so many that it is tough to gain a majority. As I see things right now, I'm assuming a Huckabee win in South Carolina that may or may not happen and basing the following map that shows nobody knows really who they want to support for President. Of course this could change somewhat, but here's the way it looks today: