Worth a post after all the comments on the headlines item. Which stage of Fred-loss grief is Hillyer at? It’s not quite denial since he knows the odds are long. It’s not quite bargaining since he’s only offering recommendations to voters, not a quid pro quo. Let’s call it depression, except that he’s chosen to light a candle rather than curse the darkness. Besides the “true conservative” rationale, he offers you this:

First, there is this purely parochial consideration: Not only is Thompson of a neighboring Southern state, but, more importantly, he gives South Carolinians a chance to set out a marker and decapitate the presidential electoral primacy of Iowa and New Hampshire. Think of it this way: In every Republican presidential contest beginning in 1980, South Carolina has chosen the winner… but, and this is a very big “but”… it always has been forced to choose from a field already narrowed by the two smaller, front-running states. In effect, South Carolina was told it could take the Iowa winner or the New Hampshire winner, but nobody else.

But this time could be different…

[I]f I were a Rudy Giuliani man on Saturday, I would cast a tactical vote for Thompson, thus giving the former New York mayor a clear shot at Florida without a clear front-runner to overcome. I might even do the same if I were a Romney man seeing a Thompson surge in the state, figuring that one more loss by a suddenly shaky McCain or Huckabee in a state in which each was supposed to be strong might knock at least one of them out of the race and out of Romney’s hair. Tactically, it also makes sense for any mainstream conservative to want to give a boost to the most consistent conservative in the race, just to send a message to those who say the old Reagan coalition no longer has relevance. A win for Thompson on Saturday would tell the world that consistency across the full gamut of conservative issues still carries weight at the ballot box.

He wants evangelicals to climb aboard too since Huckabee’s a one-issue candidate who probably can’t win in less religious states. Question re: the parochial consideration: Has anyone ever voted for a candidate to send a message about the relative importance to the primary system of one’s home state? That sounds like one of those clever yet implausible theories concocted by pundits desperate for new angles into the electoral mindset. Is anyone in South Carolina disposed towards Romney but now thinking Fred just to flip the bird to Michigan and hope SC merits a mention in Thompson’s inauguration speech? I’m skeptical. As for the tactical argument, Rudy supporters have nothing to lose but why would Mittheads want to resuscitate the one guy who can most plausibly challenge Romney on the right? Once Fred’s dead, Mitt’s the closest thing left to an across-the-board conservative. If anything, Fredheads worried about a Huckabee or McCain surge into Florida should be considering whether to bail out and vote for Mitt to boost him up, as a surprisingly strong showing would blunt the momentum of whoever wins. That’s why Romney’s trying to paint the state as a lost cause for McCain; anything less than an easy victory becomes a disappointment.

New poll says Fred’s only three points out of second place … and 11 points out of first with 48 hours to go.