Five Republicans now have a credible route to the nomination.
Mike Huckabee's pathway.... Huckabee wins Iowa convincingly, helping John McCain to beat Romney in NH narrowly, causing Romney to falter; Huckabee, skipping Michigan, wins South Carolina handily, having grabbed conservatives from Fred Thompson... he loses narrowly to Rudy Giuliani on Jan. 29, in Florida, but Huckabee has enough momentum, delegates and money to make a run at the southern states (Georgia Alabama) who hold contests on Feb. 5; Giuliani wins the northern states, and for the next few weeks, Huckabee and Giuliani battle for d decisive delegate edge. Giuliani's social positions prove too onerous; Huckabee cleans up in debates, and Huckabee slides to victory, narrowly.
John McCain could win the nomination if.... McCain comes in a surprise third in Iowa, or not; he wins New Hampshire, wins or ties in Michigan, which merits him a second look in South Carolina. Those big fundraisers recruited by John Weaver and co. finally are able to find donors willing to contribute the max to a candidate on the rise, and money swarms in via the Net. The press writes the McCain rising story. By this point, Huckabee and McCain are competing for the votes of conservatives and Giuliani is a non-factor, his support having dissipated. McCain edges Huckabee in South Carolina (or comes close) and puts himself in the catbird's seat for Jan 29. What would help: Thompson drops out and endorses McCain. Clinton beats Obama and independents vote for McCain in New Hampshire.
Rudy Giuliani could win the nomination if.... He finishes dismally in Iowa, but the press doesn't really cover it that much because they're covering the vanquishing of Hillary Clinton; Giuliani finishes a strong third in New Hampshire, a strong third in Michigan, fourth in South Carolina...by this point, he'll have not won a single contest (with the exception, perhaps, of Nevada) but won't be all that far behind in the delegate race. He'll have spent millions on television in Florida; he wins Florida; and suddenly the momentum swings back to him and he wins enough contests on Feb. 5 to turn the race into a two-man sprint ... Giuliani and a social conservative. And he beats the conservative.
Mitt Romney could win the nomination if.....Romney wins in Iowa and New Hampshire; wins or places second in Michigan; South Carolina becomes a firewall...either Huckabee re-emerges...Romney outpolls Giuliani in South Carolina and turns the contest, by Florida, into a two-man sprint with Giuliani; or, Giuliani's support crumbles without an early state victory...
Fred Thompson could win the nomination if..... Thompson hangs in there, benefits from a Huckabee fall in Iowa -- i.e., Huckabee CANNOT win Iowa in this scenario, which means that Romney wins Iowa which means that Romney probably wins New Hampshire; Thompson somehow wins South Carolina and wins Southern states on Feb. 5; Romney and Giuliani battle in some northern states (and Romney maybe even wins one), and Thompson lives to fight Giuliani or Romney as the conservative alternative.
Other scenarios? Write in and I'll publish the best ones.
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