A Ray of Hope For Romney

It isn't much of one, but he'll take what he can get tonight. It comes from Tom Bevan at the RCP blog:

Giuliani dropping out helps McCain, right? Well, not so fast. According to the exit polls, 49% of those who voted for Rudy today picked Mitt Romney as their 2nd choice while 44% picked McCain. And, interestingly, those who voted for Huckabee overwhelmingly picked McCain as their top 2nd choice over Mitt Romney, 54% to 32%.

If that pattern holds outside Florida, having Rudy out and Huck still in could actually give Romney an unexpected boost going into February 5th. Just not nearly enough of one, I think, to stave off what looks like an inevitable defeat.

In hindsight, these numbers suggest that the real turning point came last week in South Carolina. If Huckabee had won there, weakening McCain and strengthening himself going into Florida, he might have taken enough votes from McCain today to allow Romney to sneak into first - and a Romney victory tonight would have the stage for a long, drawn-out, three-way race to the convention, in which Mitt's money and organization and the backing of the movement establishment might well have put him over the top. Which means that Fred Thompson, by tearing down Huckabee in South Carolina, probably delivered his old friend John McCain the nomination. I doubt he's sorry to have done it.