Here are the exit polls. Note that evangelicals (40% of the electorate) split their votes between Huckabee, Romney, and McCain. And while you’d think that, on some of the issues, Huckabee’s voters would have preferred Romney to McCain if their man weren’t in the race, many more told the pollsters that their second choice was McCain. Are these the evangelicals who just can’t bring themselves to vote for a Mormon?
Another interesting feature of the vote was that McCain seems to have won among voters who regarded the economy as the big issue. Wasn’t Romney supposed to have owned that constituency?
Finally, Romney won among the more conservative (37-27), more Republican (33-31) voters, but not by enough, among enough to overcome McCain’s very substantial leads in other categories. And if I’m right about where Huckabee’s supporters would go if the man from Hope weren’t on the ballot, McCain would be gaining ground in the aforementioned categories.
Can anyone think of a scenario (not including a McCain implosion) in which Romney wins the nomination, especially if, as is likely, Giuliani pulls out and endorses McCain? Huckabee’s presence on the ballot across the South hurts McCain more than Romney. Giuliani’s absence on the coasts surely helps McCain. But I think that all that Huckabee can do, even if he should perform well in his region, is postpone the date when McCain reaches the magic number.
My last question: Will McCain approach the conservative establishment opinion leaders or will they approach him, in order to make the best of Republican/conservative prospects in November?