Alan Greenblatt is a GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
There hasn't been a Republican primary season like this in my memory. Even when Republicans haven't started with a clear frontrunner, as in 2000, they quickly rallied around one. This year, pole position keeps getting swapped as some new person emerges as the least offensive, "none of the above" candidate. I'm not convinced Huckabee can maintain that position.
He probably won't do well in New Hampshire. I buy the current wisdom that has McCain taking down Romney in New Hampshire. Remember that Romney, the "Memento" candidate -- he has a hard time remembering his own positions for more than five minutes -- isn't well known outside of three states. Once he loses two of them, he can't count on Massachusetts, a state with which he has fallen into a strong mutual dislike, to bail him out. (Okay, maybe he can carry his actual home state of Michigan, but I doubt that, too.)
So Huckabee more or less takes a bye on New Hampshire and then is extremely well-suited for South Carolina, a conservative and heavily Christian Right state. Is it possible that history will repeat itself insofar as McCain goes from triumph in New Hampshire only to get bogged down in South Carolina?
If that scenario plays out, Giuliani's sit-the-first-month-out strategy suddenly won't seem so crazy. He remains well-known and popular, even if he's been dragged down by scandals by association.
On Feb. 5, Huckabee could sweep the south, but Giuliani could in fact play well in New York and California. I wouldn't bet big money on it, but there will be a real anybody but Huckabee push on by that point and Giuliani stands to profit from it, if in fact he recovers in time to take Florida just ahead of Feb. 5.
Or McCain may still be coasting on a New Hampshire victory and the love embrace of the media, which will be key leading into the semi-national primary day.
It's a lot of ifs. Which means that, although the Democratic race for president is more interesting today, the Republican race promises to remain intriguing for longer.
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