1. His victory is narrow but real. No doubt Huck would have won had I not withheld my one-day/one-state endorsement. I actually heard some speculation that Huck’s flag comments hurt him in the "new" South Carolina earlier in the day. In general, Huck’s last week of campaigning was pretty uninspired.
2. The accusation the Fred was in the race merely to help McCain is surely untrue. But that was the "effectual truth" of the matter. Fred’s scattershot attacks on Huck didn’t help himself, but hurt Huck. And when Giuliani and Romney supporters cheered them, they did so not realizing they were also hurting their own candidate. Only today, belatedly, did they start to root for Huck in SC at the Corner.
3. McCain will be very hard to stop now. His lead in the national polls will increase, as will margins in California, New Jersey, and other states formerly thought to be Rudy locks.
4. Before tonight, Florida was sort of a four-way tie. But Huck will surely start to slide, and his vote will be split between Mitt and John, with most probably going to McCain. The slight chance of a Giuliani victory in Florida depended on a four-candidate race.
5. Now Romney really needs to win Florida, and it’s not impossible, but very unlikely. If McCain wins in Florida, it’s hard to see why he wouldn’t dominate the heck out of Feb. 5.
6. Another McCain advantage: When Fred drops out of the race, he’ll endorse McCain. If Huck were to drop out after a poor showing in Florida, he’ll almost surely endorse McCain (hoping, for one thing, to be on his ticket). If Giuliani were to drop out after finishing third in Florida, he’d surely endorse McCain. The more winnowing that occurs, the more isolated Mitt will seem.
7. Four more points: One reason McCain won in SC is they let people 65 and over vote there. Huck won the "youth" vote--those under 65. Huck, once again, was unable to attract many observant Catholic votes; they apparently went (once again) for Romney. Mitt erred by "pulling out" of SC, where he could have gotten, I think, a "better than expected" medal, at least. McCain may not have campaigned everywhere, but he never announced he wasn’t playing anywhere. Same with Huck, after all.