All the networks have let their A-teams go home for the night (bye, Wolf!), but I’m still here. Why? Because it’s not clear what Huckabee will accomplish tonight. He’s already won Kansas, he’s leading in Louisiana by 2 percent with 93 percent of the state reporting, and he’s trailing in Washington by 2 percent with 78 percent of the state reporting.
He could come away with one win or three wins. Either way, we’ve got a real situation on our hands. It looks like most of the voters who voted for Romney are joining the Huckabee folks; Huckabee isn’t the true conservative that many Republicans are seeking, but apparently he’s conservative enough to serve as the alternative to moderate/maverick John McCain. Looks like a major case of buyer’s remorse in the first primaries since John McCain was crowned the presumptive nominee.
If this continues on Tuesday, when Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. vote, it will be a wholesale repudiation of the Republican leaders who are slowly and begrudgingly coming to back John McCain.
So who’s backing Huckabee? According to CNN’s exit polls out of Louisiana, Huckabee found his most support among regular church-goers, evangelicals, economically minded voters (particularly those who feel the economy is performing poorly), young Republicans, and true hard-core conservatives. Is that a coalition that can come through for Huckabee in the next round? We only have to wait three days to find out.
But more importantly, will it matter? Probably not. According to CNN’s calculations, Huckabee can win every single state left on the Republican primary calendar by a 50-40 margin and John McCain will still win the delegate contest. (CNN assumes Ron Paul takes 10 percent, but Washington proves he may do better than that.) This is a lost cause for Huckabee. Will he realize that and let the Republican Party coalesce around McCain? Or will he ride this thing out (he looks like he’s having fun, after all) so Republicans have a contest instead of a coronation? And could this have happened if Romney was still in the race splitting the conservative vote with Huckabee?
There are open questions in a Republican race that seemed, just a few days ago, to be all answers.