My liveblogging of the Florida Republican debate is here.
The results of Fox’s post-debate poll — Paul leading, followed by Huckabee, then Giuliani, with the rest in single digits — have prompted me to realize something that I should have considered earlier: Huckabee’s rise is coming at the expense of Thompson and Romney. That makes sense, since the Values Voters are the key Republican demographic who so far have not had a dog in this fight and have heretofore been splitting their vote (one imagines, anyway) between Romney, Thompson, and the Huck.
So I’m now thinking Huck will do very well in Iowa and be a contender in other primaries. Romney and Thompson will continue to hamper each other, with Huck also detracting from their momentum. It makes the scenario I’ve been predicting — a Giuliani nomination with Huck as veep — even likelier.
For Romney to move ahead, he’ll need to win both Iowa and New Hampshire and beat Giuliani in South Carolina or Florida. And even that might not do it: Giuliani might be able to survive trailing in the early states if he can win Florida, as long as there’s no single consensus candidate by that point — that is, as long as Thompson, rather than Romney, wins South Carolina and Giuliani finishes respectably.
The Washington Times calls Giuliani’s strategy “riksy.” National Journal, on the other hand, offers an analysis similar to my own. It’s not that Giuliani is the first choice of most Republican constituencies, it’s that none of his opponents has a bigger geographic base. Certainly Romney doesn’t; Thompson potentially could, but he’s barely a contender in Iowa and New Hampshire, and unless he can beat Giuliani in both South Carolina and Florida, he’ll be heading into Feb. 5 with very little momentum.
A further point that suggests Giuliani is going to get the nomination is that he continues to be seen by Republicans as the candidate most likely to beat Hillary. The focus group of zombies that Frank Luntz assembled to evaluate the Republican debate tonight thought so, and they didn’t get behind anyone else as a consensus choice for the nomination.
To keep the values voters base happy and head off a third-party threat, as well as to diversify the ticket’s geographic appeal, I can certainly see Giuliani picking the Huck as a veep.
It would, of course, be the worst Republican ticket of all, since it would combine the socially liberal Giuliani with the economically liberal Huckabee, the union sealed with a commitment to continuing Bush’s failed foreign policy. And I can certainly see Giuliani giving in to Huckabee’s health-nut desires to run everybody’s diet. It would be the one thing that could make Giuliani’s police-state authoritarianism even worse: adding a fundamentalist and calorie-counter component to it.