If the Republican Party winds up with no nominee at all in 2008, give me credit: I was making that prediction well over a year ago, back when their top contenders were Bill Frist, George Allen, and Rick Santorum.

I don't know if Mike Huckabee can win or not, but I'm reasonably confident that he can make Romney disappear. Romney's lead in Iowa was totally built on money. He's not a natural Iowa candidate, whereas Huckabee is. (Though natural Iowa candidates, in either party but especially the GOP, don't always do well elsewhere -- e.g. Pat Robertson.) In national polls, and in every state except the two where he's outspending everyone, Romney never breaks 10%, to this day. And he's the only candidate who almost always trails badly in horserace match-ups with Clinton or any other Dem. I had been discounting that because of name recognition, but it's remarkable how quickly Huckabee moved into position in the national polls, with no more name recognition than Romney. If Romney loses Iowa, maybe he's the "comeback kid" in New Hampshire, but more likely it will be discounted because its a neighboring state and that lead is very soft also.

I think the "Republican Establishment," such as it is, will -- more importantly than any disagreement on taxes or immigration -- conclude Huckabee absolutely can't win. They have to present just a soft enough face on social issues to pick up moderately pro-choice women, which was really the Bush-Cheney secret. I doubt there's a scenario in which Huckabee could win any of the likely swing states, either Rocky Mountain, Midwest, or Florida. I'd guess that will result in a very quick effort to consolidate around Giuliani, despite the fact that his scandal baggage is heavier than we've ever seen in a candidate. I don't see McCain pulling a Kerry, mainly because he can no longer count on the independents in New Hampshire, many of whom have now become Democrats. Perhaps they all self-destruct and Duncan Hunter saunters out of the fiery wreckage.

Newt, your nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Civilization needs its definer.

--Mark Schmitt

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