Time for a recap of the GOP candidates and the political space they occupy:
Rev. Huckabee is praying (publicly) for a win in South Carolina, while unleashing the demonic forces of Ed Rollins and push-polling to get it. While billing himself as a full-spectrum candidate, he seems to be working himself deeper into the narrow role of pulpit-pounder.
John McCain, having said "sorry" on the immigration issue and having repeated the mantra "The surge is working" too many times for anyone to doubt it, has decided to go with an issue he can tell the truth on: federal spending is out of control. It is true, but defining himself as a fiscal conservative may eventually require him to outline a plan for specific spending cuts. What cuts does he have in mind? Perhaps bringing the 100-year war to an early end?
Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson are fighting for the same political space-that of social values compromise candidate, but sadly that no-good Huckabee is convincing the evolution deniers that they might actually get someone who would do more than pay them lip service. Why do the un-enlightened of the South continue in this hopeless pursuit when the Huckster is unlikely to get better than third in any Northern state? It's because they don't like Mormons.
There-in lies Thompson's hope. He's a good ol' boy in the old mold, and when he bothers to get out of bed, he can win over the crowds with plain speakin'. If he can prove himself more acceptable to the South-absolutely necessary if the GOP is to continue its "Southern strategy" of mild race baiting-he could change his campaign slogan from the current lame "the clear conservative choice" to the more appropriate "the acceptable compromise candidate".
Romney has made another about-face policy shift: wearing casual clothing instead of his hallmark suit and tie. If he convinces the workers and unemployed (a growing segment of the electorate) that instead of a CEO and money manager he is a populist defender of US labor, then he is expected to try to sell them prime Florida real estate and shares in the Brooklyn Bridge as well.
Ron Paul owns the war issue, the Constitution issue, the immigration issue, the NAFTA issue and monetary policy. Accordingly, the focus of debates will now shift to other key Republican policies like government bailouts and economic subsidies. On these topics, Paul is expected to be asked if he is a racist and whether he should withdraw given that he has no chance of winning.
Duncan Hunter built a fence on the California border. He owns the fence issue. Fence voters are likely to consider Hunter before voting for someone else.
Oh yeah, Giuliani… I forgot about him. He's in Florida hoping his scandals will be forgotten before he reappears. They will be, but he will be forgotten too.