After the punditocracy said McCain would run all the way to the nomination after capturing New Hampshire, his stumble in Motor City could prove fatal.
Next up is South Carolina, where a win by Huckabee--or heaven forbid, Freddie Thompson (is he still running?)--would further scramble the race going into Florida and Super Tuesday.
Giuliani's people are no doubt cheering--they're like one of those football teams that can't get into the playoffs on it's own, but instead has to have another team (in this case, McCain) lose. But it hardly vindicates Giuliani's strategy. He could yet win Florida--by a small margin--but that will only set up a very messy day on February 5, with the likelihood that all five major candidates (if Thompson makes it that far) would capture at least one state (Thompson=Tennessee), with Huckabee, Romney, McCain and Giuliani all getting three or four apiece.
Romney's win puts the GOP back--potentially--on a path to deadlock. There's still another way: if McCain earns a convincing victory in South Carolina Saturday, then pulls out any kind of win in Florida, he should get the nomination. The only way McCain gets there, however, is for his friend Fred T. to take just enough votes away from Huckabee to open the door.
Will South Carolina, which derailed the Straight Talk Express in 2000, be the spark that propels McCain to the nomination? Or will the Palmetto State once again be the last station stop? We'll know in a few days.
Meanwhile, it's not all that clear where Romney goes from here. He certainly can win Massachusetts and Utah on Super Tuesday, maybe Nevada this Saturday. But how does he get the delegates to win? We don't see it.