The Republican Party is finding itself with the third winner in as many primaries tonight, as Mitt Romney has rejoined the GOP race for the White House. By winning his first state of the primary season, Romney's campaign, deflated after a loss in New Hampshire, now has fresh wind in its sails. Romney's win is a setback for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who hoped to carry the momentum he won last week in New Hampshire into Michigan, a state where he beat George Bush in the 2000 Republican primary. But the state was Romney's to lose, considering he was born and raised here, not to mention his father was once the state's governor. Plus Romney, sensing his candidacy was teetering on the brink of collapse, diverted resources from the next primary states, like South Carolina and Florida, to get a W in Michigan that would reinvigorate his campaign.
So what now for the Republicans? No one has emerged as a favorite, and a couple of very viable candidates have yet to win a primary.
For Romney, his win-or-go-home strategy in Michigan has to play out like he is hoping it will, with the momentum of victory making up for pulling money and resources out of the next primary locations. I'm not sure he can outright win any of those, but strong second or third-place finishes will keep him in the hunt right through Super Tuesday on February 5th, when 28 states hold their primaries, and where he could win enough states to keep campaigning or possibly emerge as the front-runner. And since he is the only candidate that has committed any kind of time or resources to Nevada, he should score an easy win there.
Although John McCain has a New Hampshire win under his belt, he has to be disappointed not to win Michigan. He did win it in 2000, and Michigan is a state that allows anyone, even registered democrats, to vote, so many people predicted independents and democrats would cross over and, since they supposedly favor McCain, would help him claim victory. That doesn't appear to have happened, however. The reason for this is unclear: Is McCain's popularity with non-Republicans overblown? Or was the impact they would possibly have on the results what was overestimated? Either way, McCain polls well in the next primary states, and is still very much a factor. The funny thing is that his campaign was all but dead this past summer, with staffers being fired or quitting by the bus load, and the donations trickling to a near halt. Fortunately for him, the campaigning starts about twenty years before the actual voting so he had plenty of time to pick himself up and start again.
Oh Mike Huckabee where art thou? The man who captured the hearts and souls of conservative, Christian America hasn't gone anywhere, I assure you. A guy who nobody took seriously three months ago has finished third in the last two primaries, states where he didn't campaign very much until he won Iowa and realized he actually had a shot at this thing. And guess what state holds the next primary? South Carolina, aka the conservative, Christian ex-minister candidate's dream state. It remains to be seen what, if any, effect the Michigan results will have on the poll numbers, but Huckabee looks to have a very legit shot to win in South Carolina, which coupled with any type of showing in Florida or Nevada means the sky is the limit for the Huckster.
Oh and by the way there are two more candidates that people might have forgotten about: Rudy Giuliani, who had all but won this thing a couple months ago, and Fred "Droopy Dog" Thompson, who is as committed to running for President as I am to visiting a vegetarian all-you-can-eat buffet, yet still has a presence in the polls and support that cannot be overlooked.
It's true that Giuliani only received three votes in Iowa, and didn't finish strong in either of the last two contests, but this is because he has been focusing on Florida, a delegate-rich state that is right before Super Tuesday. A win there is worth as much two of the previous primaries combined, and showing up big there puts him right in the national spotlight before the most important day of the year for these guys (except the two that have another election to look forward to in November). Rudy also stands to benefit in states that allow all voters, not just Republicans, to vote. He is the most liberal Republican left, so voters that want a strong national defense candidate, maybe a tax cut or two, but still favor abortion and Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, will have a very attractive option. Look for him to re-enter the conversation in Nevada.
And as for Fred Thompson, what the heck is this guy's deal? He seems to have all the energy and enthusiasm of a couple of my former roommates who reside on Fat Boy Blvd. His campaign schedule in Michigan forthe days leading up to the primary was about as empty as Wesley Snipes' piggybank, considering his opponents were putting in 20-hour days. But he still has a shred of hope in South Carolina, a state that shares many of his opinions, especially those favoring slow-paced living. So a surprise win there, or possibly even a strong second place finish, could resurrect his campaign. But I very seriously doubt that.
Interesting Side Note: Not many people talk about Ron Paul, but the guy is still raking in crazy amounts of cash, mostly through the internet. This libertarian-in-republican's clothing has rejected the idea of doing so, for now, but if he were to run as a third-party candidate he could be very dangerous to the Republican party. As someone who is very strongly opposed to immigration, hates taxes, and yet openly opposes the war in Iraq, he could siphon off precious votes that will be needed badly for the Republican candidate hoping to defeat Barack or Hillary.