Bob Krumm: Fred wasn't McCain's stalking horse, he was playing chess

The idea is that Fred needs to make South Carolina a two-man race to have any chance of winning. Krumm thinks that by attacking Huck last night and then counting on McCain to eliminate Mitt in Michigan, he’s turning SC into a McCain/Thompson showdown. Is he? Does anyone think the big smackdown knocked Huck out in SC last night given the evangelical base there? Here are the five January polls of the state:

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The only one of those that puts Fred within single digits of Huckabee is the Fox News poll, and there the margin’s nine. If Mitt drops out entirely after Michigan, Thompson’s got a chance as the bulk of Romney’s support may very well migrate to him. Mitt’s still got a shot at picking up delegates in Nevada (held the same day as SC), though, so if he lingers on for that he’ll still be on the ballot in SC, and in that case how many supporters will he lose to Fred realistically? Maybe five percent? Assume also that Fred’s attack last night knocked three points from Huck’s column into his. That would leave Fred neck and neck with Huck and McCain surging off the expected win in Michigan — a three-man race, which Krumm concedes Fred almost certainly can’t win. In fact, barring some sort of catastrophic fourth- or fifth-place finish in Michigan, there’s simply no way Huckabee’s not going to contend in South Carolina, especially if Dobson rides in with an eleventh-hour endorsement.

Exit question: How significant was Fred’s attack on Huck last night, really? That is, how many points do you think shifted because of it? Think back to all the primary debates you’ve ever seen involving a field of four or five candidates. Has there ever been an attack in those circumstances that dramatically shifted the race the next day? Debates don’t produce big bounces unless they’re one-on-one match-ups, and even then it’s unusual.