Step forward Mike Huckabee. No, really. He went into yesterday's polling as the third candidate in a two-horse race and came out of it as the man who controls the South.
Of course he isn't going to be in the Oval Office next year. But he is now firmly positioned as the running mate for McCain - who even said some nice things about him in his speech last night. By taking a slew of Southern states - yes, all of the bible belt - he exceeded the predictions that he was only going to take his home state of Arkansas. Why is this important for McCain? For two reasons. First it means that there are still three candidates in the race. Mitt Romney's hope for a mano-a-mano showdown with McCain isn't going to happen for a while at least. Second, because McCain needs to be competitive in the South come the general election. These 'red' states are usually a lock for the GOP. But there is one thing that could upset the applecart - Barack Obama as the Dem nominee. If he could encourage black voters to come out for him then it puts these states in play for the first time in a long while. If McCain takes on Huckabee then it solidifies his shaky Christian right values and locks down these South once again.
Sticking with the Republicans, Romney had a really bad night. His victory in Massachussetts is only remarkable because McCain made a Guiliani-like gaffe and chose to campaign there rather than California. In the end, Romney held his home state quite comfortably in what became a good news story for him. Other than that, very little positive to report.
For the Dems, Obama failed to make a huge breakthrough, but won far more states than Clinton. However, he didn't make the grade in California, Massachussetts or New Jersey. (So wherever he had a big endorsement - Kerry and Kennedy in Mass, Mrs Arnie in Calif - he failed). Logically, he should be crowing about last night. He has at least got the 'little mo' and has loads of cash to splurge. But the media have fouled it up for him by suggesting that last night could have been the big one (they were even suggesting that New York could be in play). And the supporters email I got from his team overnight is comparatively downbeat.
In failing to win a couple of states they thought he might have, Obama seems to have lost some ground. On the other hand, he and Clinton seem to be getting a bit more lovey-dovey in their speeches. Clinton now appears to want him as her running mate to beat McCain. I don't see him being so keen and vice versa clearly wouldn't work.
And if Huckabee was the big winner. The big losers must be the pollsters. They made a hash of so many states that they are in danger of becoming a laughing stock. I have a big aversion to polls (although I read them avidly, of course) and got in trouble once for daring to suggest that a single poll might not have been the most accurate reflection of what was going to happen. I'll have a rant at some point on the subject.
It all happens again in three days time. The Dems hit Washington, Nebraska and Louisiana and the GOP goes to Louisiana and Kansas. Guys, it's over to you.
Image courtesy of Fox.