23 January 2008

And then there were seven

The winnowing begins -- one of the eight major candidates for President has withdrawn.

Fred Thompson was the only one of the five major Republicans who was not anathema to some big part of the Republican base. I don't think he ever had a really strong chance at the nomination, but he just might have emerged as a consensus candidate that all Republicans could live with. That option is now gone.

As an example of the possible impact of his withdrawal, consider South Carolina. McCain's much-ballyhooed victory there was by a small margin -- he got 33% of the vote and Huckabee got 30%. Had it not been for Thompson (Huckabee's fellow Southerner) drawing off a fair number of voters, Huckabee might well have edged out McCain, creating a very different narrative and media emphasis. So a Thompson-less race will probably strengthen Huckabee and undercut McCain's new front-runner position. The demolition derby continues.

(Note also that McCain's margin of victory over Huckabee was due to independents, who can vote in the South Carolina Republican primary. Huckabee got more votes than McCain among registered Republicans. And most of the upcoming Republican primaries do not allow independents to participate.)

Now Republicans turn their attention to Florida, where we shall see whether Giuliani's campaign can rise from the dead.

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