Open thread: The last, best hope for conservative kind; Update: Mitt backs off on Super Tuesday ads?

8 p.m. ET on CNN. Romney gets a rare opportunity, at the Reagan library no less: If he figures out a way to take down McCain, he’ll capture the base’s imagination instantly. People were aching for someone to hammer Huckabee about his squishiness and ol’ Fred came through, winning ecstatic praise but not having enough support by that point to do anything with it. Mitt is a different story. If he lays Maverick out by channelling the frustrations you’re hearing elsewhere in conservative media today, he’s got a shot at (finally) getting some people excited. If he doesn’t, he’d better pray Limbaugh et al. have some sort of doomsday weapon in reserve.

Huckabee has an unusual opportunity too, to cement the non-evangelical base’s loathing of him by hammering Romney on McCain’s behalf. If it becomes too obvious a game of good cop/bad cop — especially with Maverick ducking Romney on Meet the Press — the rivers of anti-Huck venom will flow tomorrow like the mighty Mississip, which should be enough to finish off the dumb rumors about him being on the ticket.

Sound off below, and look out for some questions in this vein especially given the dust-up this weekend over timetables. The Arnold endorsement is coming soon, possibly even tonight, and some key southern endorsements are on tap for tomorrow. Exit question: At what time precisely will Hugh Hewitt’s “Romney won the debate” post be published? It’s already mostly written, I’m sure. Over/under is 10:32.

Update: Throwing in the towel?

In a major boost for John McCain, Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney signaled Wednesday he’s not ready to commit to a costly campaign in the states holding primaries and caucuses next week.

Several officials said that on the heels of a defeat in Tuesday’s Florida primary, Romney’s campaign was not attempting to purchase television advertising time in any of the states on the Super Tuesday calendar…

Officials familiar with Romney’s plans cautioned they could yet changes. They said that paradoxically, the Florida defeat had been followed with a particularly strong day of online fundraising. But they added that in discussions so far, the former Massachusetts governor had selected the least costly of a variety of options prepared for his review.

Why wouldn’t he go for broke, unless he thinks he’s throwing his money away?