It is January 24th, 2008... Five days before the Florida showdown... Twelve days before Super Tuesday. A number of contests have cleared the field of candidates who failed to materialize, leaving behind a race that is as out of the ordinary as a San Francisco Conservative.
Huckabee claimed first blood in Iowa, taking the state from the long time favorite there, Mitt Romney. The Huckaboom had paid off, and Huck's momentum was back.
Fast on his tail was John McCain, perhaps in anticipation of his contest in New Hampshire, where Independents were able to rally behind their man as they did 8 years prior. John McCain's win in New Hampshire helped further propel his numbers in the positive direction, giving him the highest level of support since entering the race over a year ago.
Meanwhile, smaller and less contested races were taking place in states like Wyoming, Michigan, and Nevada... Victories out of these states heralded little notice by the press, but the delegates counted just the same as in the traditional early states. Mitt Romney's victories in these widely uncontested states did little to add to his momentum, though there is something to be said for leading the delegate count before Super Tuesday, and that is the headline he was hoping for.
Rudy Guiliani has yet to break 10% in a contest in the early states. His strategy of "Go Big or Go Home", where he is playing in states with only sizable delegate counts, has done little more than employ an army of campaign eulogy writers... but for Rudy, there is always Florida, right?
And all the while, Ron Paul and his supporters, after stacking every online poll in an attempt to appear as a front-runner, has been unable to muster more than 5% nationally in the polls, and has had his best showing in an uncontested Nevada, where he placed a very distant 2nd.
So I ask the question... Who has the momentum again?
The answer is simply: No One!
Fred Thompson's drop from the race, and lack of an expected endorsement, has left a large field of undecided voters hesitant to join any one campaign. The lack of a McCain endorsement has further served to help add gravity to McCain's falling national numbers, as voters remember why his campaign imploded over the summer: Immigration.
Duncan Hunter, yesterday, in an attempt to help swings some momentum in the direction of the Social Conservatives, endorsed Mike Huckabee... unfortunately this endorsement received little fanfare from the media, as they have all but declared the Huckabee campaign a bust. Huckabee is doing little to help his own campaign by not aggressively pursuing Thompson's supporters. Instead his campaign released a short press advisory welcoming support... while at the same time his campaign Chairman Chip Saltzman took a hit at Fred Thompson on the Mike Huckabee Campaign Blog. Huckabee missed an opportunity to claim victory in SC after the contest, by claiming that Fred's withdrawal, had it happened prior to the race, would have made him the clear victor.
Rudy's numbers have flatlined, which for him is a good thing at this point. A flatline is much better than the nose-dive he was seeing. This hesitation in the plummet may be temporary, unless he can pull off a come from behind win in Florida. Rudy's only source of momentum is anticipation of Florida... but all the momentum leads up to is a simple "no change".
Mitt Romney seems unable to break the invisible barrier of 16% in the national polls. His campaign had surged in the past, only to hit 16% and fall... rising again, only to fall again... he is at 15.8%, but the trend is ominous for his campaign!
It is hard to say what will happen in the debate tonight, but easy to see what must be done. There is a new flood of undecided Thompson voters that could cling to a new campaign and propel that campaign to the White House. Every person left on that stage needs to spend tonight aggressively wooing the ex-Fred-heads. The candidate who stands to pick up the votes MUST be conservative socially (this excludes Rudy and potentially McCain), must be strong, and must actually ASK for their support... no subtleties... now is not the time!
With no momentum from any candidate, no clear front-runner, and all candidates within 10% of being the leader on a very fluid scale... We start tonight at square ONE!