Mitt’s Rudy Peril
After Fred dropped out, Mitt Romney got a very nice bounce in his national numbers and his Florida numbers. Currently, according to Rasmussen, Mitt is now ahead of McCain nationally 28% to 26%, and in Florida, Mitt came from being a few points behind McCain to running neck and neck with him in the latest polls.
Couple that with the fact that the conservative media is ceaselessly hammering away at McCain now that Huckabee seems to have dropped back and Mitt would appear to be in pretty good shape going into Super Tuesday.
However, things are actually more perilous than they would seem for Mitt for two reasons.
The biggest of them is that Rudy Giuliani bet his entire campaign on winning Florida and if he loses, which he almost surely will, he very well may drop out of the race. If that happens, well, let’s see — he’s a moderate, fiscally conservative candidate, who is strong on national security issues and primarily appeals to middle-of-the-road voters — hmmmm, which of the remaining candidates does that sound like?
My guess is that if Rudy Giuliani drops out, McCain will get as much of a boost from him as Mitt got from Fred leaving the race.
Then, the other factor is Mike Huckabee. If he stays in the race through Super Tuesday — and it is looking like he will — he will do especially well in conservative, Southern states where Romney will need to clean up delegates to stay competitive with McCain.
In other words, if Super Tuesday ends up being John McCain vs. Mitt Romney vs. Mike Huckabee, McCain probably wins that fight and comes out of it with the most delegates. That may be the most likely scenario and it’s one that wouldn’t be good for Mitt Romney.
However, there is many a slip betwixt a cup and a lip. If Giuliani stays in, he would play the John Edwards role in the Democratic race, except he’d be draining support from John McCain instead of Barack Obama. Then there’s Huckabee. If he drops out, it’s difficult to know exactly where his support would end up. Then there’s the possibility that Mitt could win Florida and get some momentum going while talk radio beats down McCain more than expected. So, both Mitt and McCain are definitely in the thick of the race.
That being said, to sum it all up, whether McCain or Mitt wins Florida, the person most likely to benefit is McCain. That’s because Rudy will probably be knocked out of the race and Guiliani’s supporters will probably tend to gravitate towards Johnny Mac.