Rather late, don’t you think? Such an endorsement could have helped Huck raise some money earlier on, or perhaps bolstered him in South Carolina, where every little bit would have helped. Had Dobson spoken, say, after Iowa, it’s not clear that McCain would now be the presumptive nominee and that it would now be hard to find a plausible political rationale for Huckabee’s persistence. I’m far from saying--in this counterfactual fantasy--that, but for Dobson’s silence, Huckabee would now be closing in on the nomination. But consider this: Huckabee wins Iowa; McCain wins New Hampshire; and Huckabee wins South Carolina. Who then wins Florida? Wouldn’t it have been a three-way or even four-way race, with Huckabee having the money to persist, McCain not doing so well in the panhandle, and Giuliani not necessarily bleeding votes? It’s not out of the question that any one of the four could have won, under those fantasy circumstances. I take it as given that, on Super Tuesday, Huckabee wouldn’t have won much more--perhaps Missouri and Oklahoma. But Romney would have done better, and Giuliani might have hurt Mac in the Northeast.
My fantasy bottom line: by endorsing Huckabee earlier, Dobson could have made it more likely that someone he could tolerate--Huckabee or Romney--would be well-positioned after Super Tuesday. I don’t say this because I think that Dobson is a king-maker. His endorsement matters at the electoral margins and probably looms a bit larger in fund-raising. But that might have been enough to change the dynamics of a closely fought race.
Again, I say this as someone who will vote for McCain and would have voted for Romney or Huckabee.