Handicapping (What's Left of) the GOP Field

We have five days — and two debates! — before South Carolina votes. Let’s do a quick run-through.

Jon Huntsman: Fini. Somehow, a stiff and uncharismatic candidate who spoke Mandarin better than conservatism never caught on with GOP voters, even after sucking up to the MSM. But some things in politics shall forever remain mysteries.

Ron Paul: His supporters are still spinning second- and third-place finishes in New Hampshire and Iowa as “wins.” They’ll be doing so again after South Carolina.

Newt Gingrich: It can’t be easy to run to the left of Mitt Romney in a GOP race in two of the most conservative states in the union, but damn if he didn’t find a way. Voters tell pollsters Gingrich is “nasty.” I say, “The pollster is calling from inside 1997!”

Rick Perry: Good record, lousy candidate. Evangelical, sunny, Tea Party(ish), Southern — South Carolina should be Perry Country. But his campaign has lacked a theme or even a simple message, other than he seems to think he’d make a great governor of America. And maybe he would, but probably not this cycle. Also, we’re electing a president.

Rick Santorum: Man, but I hate this guy — and the feeling seems to be mutual. He’s George W. Bush redux, but without the Texas charm to make the Big Government Compassionate Crap go down a bit easier. Currently polling fourth in SC. If he can’t make it there, he can’t make it anywhere. Pennsylvania voters had him figured out a while ago, and acted accordingly. It looks like SC voters will, too.

Mitt Romney: Polling in the low-30s in South Carolina. That’s kind of outrageous. His numbers had been a bit higher, coming out of NH, but eventually some of the attacks were going to stick. All along, I’ve watched Romney set up Florida as his firewall, to protect him from the presumed big loss in Mormon-and-moderate-unfriendly SC. So if he wins there by ten, or even just five points? Then Florida might become something more akin to a coronation than a primary fight.

For what it’s worth, Nate Silver has the numbers like so:

I will drunkblog tonight’s debate. Still trying to work my schedule around for the one on Thursday. If I can’t swing it, I hope you (and my liver) will understand. Check the PJ Media homepage tonight at 8:45PM Eastern / 5:45PM Pacific for all the fun.

AND ANOTHER THING: Will Collier would like for the door to hit Huntsman on the ass on his way out.