THE SELF-IMMOLATION OF RUDY. As a staunch Giuliani opponent, I must admit a certain grudging admiration for his decision to be explicitly pro-choice rather than adopting the High Contrarian "I'm pro-choice, but it should be left to the states (and, er, whatever regulations Congress can pass" position, and it's refreshing in a way that primary voters would see this as the kind of dodge it almost always is. It's good for the country for a serious Republican candidate to take the normatively correct and (funding questions aside) majority position on the issue. Matt seems right, however, that "John McCain and Mitt Romney should, in my opinion, be popping some champagne this morning." The strategic calculation seems to be that the front-loaded primary will include more liberal states in which his abortion position won't be a big issue. The problem is that I don't see much evidence that Republican primary voters in those states are particularly socially liberal. Schwarzenegger had to win a special election because he probably couldn't have won his party's primary in a state election (where an anti-choice position is much more damaging than for a national candidate.) New York Republicans, for reasons known only to them, also put forward an anti-choice candidate for governor last year. I'm sure Republicans in those states are more liberal than those in South Carolina, but not enough that I can see Giuliani having any chance. It's over.

Having said that, I return to a question I still can't answer -- who the hell will win? I continue to agree that McCain's bid is DOA; I still don't see how someone who is both the most conservative candidate and the candidate most despised by conservatives can win, especially since his more-hawkish-than-Bush stance has shredded his support among NH independents. Romney seems like the default candidate on paper to me, but while it's showing up in his fundraising it has yet to show up in polls. The field, in other words, seems ripe for another entry, but I still can't take Fred Thompson or Gingrich that seriously. Until then, I guess I have to pick Romney, who I think benefits most from Giuliani's decision (flip-flopping has to look better to a majority of GOP primary voters than being straight-up pro-choice.)

--Scott Lemieux

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