What about Fred? Update: He's in

He’s going to finish with 13%, give or take a point and either just north or just south of McCain. Good enough to soldier on to South Carolina? With Mitt, his social con rival, having just been dealt a terrible blow and all kinds of love flowering for him in the blogosphere? Sure, why not?

The question is whether he’s willing to risk torpedoing his pal McCain, who expects to be heading down south as a winner in New Hampshire, by making SC a three-way race instead of a Huck-Mac showdown. The answer: Are we sure Fred would draw more votes from Maverick than from Huckabee? The Fredheads love him first and foremost for his position on immigration, precisely the reason so many of them also hate McCain. Conservatives (especially evangelicals) in South Carolina who aren’t real thrilled with either Huck or Mac might be tempted to go with the former purely on religious grounds; if Fred’s in the race, maybe they go for him instead. It’d take an awful lot of them to make Thompson a surprise winner, but there’s no harm in finding out just how many. Slu thinks his federalist approach might be just the ticket there if — if — he really sells it.

Bottom line: Now might be a good time to do a little encouraging.

Update: The Des Moines Register detects a pulse.

Update: What if McCain flames out in New Hampshire and Romney bounces back? That ends things for Maverick and makes South Carolina tougher for Fred. Although he’ll probably just try the “real conservative” shtick down there again.

Update: On with the show.

“It’s pretty clear we’re going to have a ticket to the next dance,” Thompson said as the audience cheered.