Here’s the story. Here are the exit poll results. McCain’s narrow victory over Huckabee was built on older, less conservative, and non-evangelical voters. Huckabee really didn’t break out from his evangelical base, who, if the exit polls are to be believed, accounted for the lion’s share of his votes (26 of the 30%). The New Hampshire bounce clearly helped McCain (folks who decided in the last week seem to have given him his margin of victory, with a last-minute Huckabee surge falling short).
Huckabee won on immigration (most important to 26% of the voters) and tied McCain on the economy (40%), and lost decisively to him on Iraq and terrorism (31% total).
This should be the end for Thompson. Huckabee’s ceiling seems pretty clear; the question is whether evangelicals will continue to stick with him in the face of his inability to appeal to anyone else. If it were solely a question of money, I’d say that he can continue indefinitely, since he gets an extremely good return on his minimal investments.
Florida can still be a four-way race, with McCain and Giuliani fighting over somewhat the same part of the electorate, and Romney with probably enough money to get a gold or silver. If evangelicals start bleeding from Huckabee, McCain has shown that he can win them over. Can Romney? If I were Mitt, I’d spend a lot of time (or at least money) in North and Central Florida seeing whether I can woo evangelicals.