Is Fred helping Huckabee by staying in the race?

Think about it. If St. John wins today, he and Huck go into South Carolina as the odds-on favorites to take the state. (Mitt could contend if he takes Michigan next week, but he’s expected to win there and is at a disadvantage vis-a-vis his opponents in hawkish, evangelical SC.) McCain’s already preparing his next moves, in fact, planning a swing through Michigan and then a flight to Charleston tomorrow night to beat the war drum at the Citadel. He’s seven points behind Huck in the state in the new Rasmussen poll, with Mitt and Fred accounting between them for another 26% of, I presume, traditional conservative voters. If either or both of them were to drop out, how would those voters break? I’m guessing towards McCain, although that’s only because I think of Huckabee as a sort of McCain-like figure himself minus the foreign policy strength. What do you gain by choosing Huck over Mac? The answer, I guess, is that one’s a “Christian leader” while the other isn’t, so it would come down to a test of whether Mitt’s and Fred’s voters prioritize the war over “values” or vice versa.

So then. If, as I do (and Ace does, among others), you believe McCain is mildly preferable to Huck, and if you believe the balance of Fred’s voters would shift towards him — especially with a likely endorsement of McCain by Fred following his dropping out — then Fred could be the difference between a Huck victory and a Mac victory in South Carolina. The Fredheads naturally think Thompson can still win the state outright, but imagine this: A week from today, four days before the primary, it’s Huck 35, McCain 35, Mitt 20, Fred 10. Should he drop out then? Yes, yes, ideally Mitt would drop out and his voters would rush off to Thompsonville, but Mitt’s got a bottomless treasury and isn’t getting out soon. Exit question: When is it time to pull the plug, ‘Heads? And as you consider it, bear in mind that the man who not long ago scolded us for punishing the children of illegal immigrants for the sins of their parents is now willing to go this far in pandering to absolve himself.

Update: Maybe the real question is, why is McCain still in the race?