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Richelieu: From the Cardinal's Mailbag

10:54 AM, Jan 19, 2008 • By RICHELIEU
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Clifford writes to say he thinks my South Carolina post missed the point and any Romney supporters will go to fellow conservative Fred Thompson, not to McCain, "a serial, barbed thorn in Republicans' sides." He predicts a Fred Thompson win tomorrow in South Carolina.

Well, Cliff, can't say I agree. The big fault line in SC politics is evangelical versus "regular" conservative Republican. Romney has a bunch of support in the regular world and if his voters do fall off as Mitt heads to Nevada and the Tonight Show, I do think Fred may get some of them, but McCain will get more, especially along the coast. My larger point is that a McCain win in SC is bad for Romney, and I was surprised Mitt didn't make a stronger, final-48-hour effort in South Carolina to pull votes off McCain and help Huckabee win. Per Fred, I think only you and perhaps the distinguished Monsieur Kristol are the last two brave soldiers still holding out for a possible Fred Thompson upset win in SC. My advice would be to switch on the shortwave and get the unfortunate news that the war is now over and your side lost. We'll find out for sure tonight.

Which leads to other frequent comments I get:

Dear Cardinal,

Why are you so anti-Fred Thompson!! He is the only REAL conservative!! You're in the tank for McCain. Signed, You Know Who.

Dear You Know Who,

I'm not anti-Fred. I've written that I think he'd make a very good President. I like him a lot. But here in the Cathedral, we call them as we see 'em, and Fred would be getting more praise if he, um, won or even finished second in a primary. No other candidate this year started with so much and ended with so little support. Sad, but true.

Dear Cardinal,

You are too hard on Rudy. You're stuck in the old way of thinking and Rudy's strategy is brilliant and when Huckabee wins SC and throws the race into total disorder, Rudy will win Florida and run the table to the nomination and then you'll sure look stupid. Signed, Tony the Mallet. Brooklyn.

Dear Tony,

I have been critical of Rudy's strategy, mostly because it ignores the long and clear history of nomination races. Rudy is far from the first to try to wait in later states and let the race come to him. Other presidents who've won the nomination with that plan include John Connally in 1980 and Al Gore in 1988. It has never worked. Maybe it will this time, but I doubt it. But if Huckabee does win tomorrow - which I think could happen - you are right that Rudy will have a big comeback opportunity in Florida. Team Rudy should be concerned, however. The millions spent in New Hampshire didn't get them any votes; Rudy might just have a candidate problem wherever he campaigns. We'll find out on the 29th, and if I'm wrong, I'll eat my red hat and give Team Rudy the praise they'll quite deserve.

Dear Cardinal,

You were wrong about NH and you're wrong about Obama period. Pray we don't win, pal. Signed, EX-POTUS, NYC.

I was wrong, really wrong about Hillary in NH. I also thought McCain would edge it out in Michigan. But I still think Obama has the edge to win the Democratic nomination. He is closer to what the voters are looking for. But Nevada is close and if Hillary can win there she'll really be back in business. If Obama wins he'll most likely win South Carolina in a week and will be the official frontrunner.