But McCain's victory tonight does set us up to get an answer to an important question: just how much enmity is there for John McCain among base Republican voters?I firmly believe that John McCain is the only Republican that has a chance of actually winning in November and that depends on Iraq not coming unglued between now an then.
I think a lot of the establishment types in the GOP would rather go with Romney. And I think it's a very open question how well McCain will do if this becomes a head to head race between McCain and Romney.
There's also the issue of open and closed primaries. South Carolina, like Michigan and New Hampshire, but not many of the coming primaries, is an open primary. But if you look at the numbers tonight, John McCain lost Republicans by one point to Mike Huckabee.
There aren't many open primaries left. And to best of my knowledge McCain has not won once this year among Republicans. He loses among Republicans and makes it up with big support from Independents.
David Brooks had a surprisingly enlightened commentary a couple of weeks ago where he said:
The leaders of the Republican coalition know Romney will lose. But some would rather remain in control of a party that loses than lose control of a party that wins.I think there is some truth to that but I also think it goes deeper than that. There are more than a few Republicans who realize that the administration of George W. Bush has really fucked things up and furthermore the shit isn't going to hit the proverbial fan until 2009 or later. They want to lose so they can blame it all on the Democrats. It's about the only way they can become significant for a generation or so. Perhaps they want McCain to lose because they are afraid he might win.