The Conservative Base is split. I don’t have to tell you that, but it deserves a mention. With Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney both running as strong, first-tier candidates, and a couple of lower-tier candidates taking a small, but not insignificant, amount of support, the Republican party is faced with the one situation that could allow a moderate candidate like Giuliani to win the nomination. Until the Conservative vote can be unified, and until the base of the party can pick a favorite, I highly doubt that a Conservative is going to take the lead.
Last weekend’s Ames Straw Poll gave us a good idea of how that unification may happen. The first step, and the one that is likely to happen the quickest, is the consolidation of Conservatives currently supporting the lower tier candidates. Once the next fundraising deadline occurs, I expect many of the lower tier candidates, namely Brownback, Hunter, and Tancredo, to drop out. This will allow Huckabee to pick up at least some of that support, while some of it will likely go to the other, top-tier candidates.
If Huckabee can emerge as a moderately strong candidate, then Fred Thompson, if he runs, could be in big trouble. While I don’t expect Huckabee to take any of Romney’s support (his moderate stances on the size of government, and some preceived pro-amnesty views will prevent that), he could take a bite out of Thompson’s support. Those who are looking for a Southern Social Conservative are currently in the Thompson camp. If Huckabee, as a Baptist Minister and life-long abortion opponent, can get more publicity, Thompson could be finished – if not before then.
Its at that point where the base would unite. If Huckabee can become a bigger name in the South, and take out the rest of the lower-tier, as well as help to remove Thompson from the picture, then expect Romney to come in and offer the VP spot on a ticket. I think Huckabee would be inclined to accept, and that would bring the remaining Southern Conservatives onboard. With that, Romney would have the support he needed to win the nomination before a split convention.
But maybe I’m being overly optimistic.