A follow-up to Bryan’s post yesterday. Note well the results of Ruffini’s poll: Fred’s continued presence in the race is killing Romney, especially in Florida where he’s got double digits banked but probably won’t do better than fourth or fifth. If Huckabee was still a threat to win it’d be worth having Thompson around to take votes from him too, but he isn’t so it isn’t. All Huck is now is a stalking horse for McCain, lingering on to bleed social con votes from Mitt; if Fred stays in he’s playing the same part, a ball and chain on Romney’s other ankle in the first primary where Maverick can’t rely on Democrats and independents to push him through. Some Fredheads are fantasizing about him trudging along in hopes of a brokered convention, where he’d end up being the compromise candidate. So a guy who not only couldn’t win a primary but couldn’t do better than third place and the mid-teens even in the south is going to be The Man in November? Sounds like a plan.

The Politico piece linked above speculates that McCain may promise the VP slot to Huckabee to stay in but he’s got enough problems with conservatives that he can’t afford another “centrist” on the ticket. So … how about Fred? I hear that Rich Galen, one of Fred’s advisors, was pitching the idea on Fox News radio this a.m. He’d give McCain instant credibility with the base, especially on immigration, and the Fredheads would thrill to the possibility of McCain retiring after one term, leaving their guy the presumptive nominee in 2012. Problems: (1) Fred said months ago, if I recall correctly, that he didn’t want to be anyone’s VP; (2) McCain may not want a guy on the ticket whose candidacy disappointed so many; (3) given Fred’s reputation as the Republican Mycroft Holmes, you’re guaranteed another eight months of “lazy campaigner” memes from the media.

Let’s see if this is worth Maverick’s while. Vote on it below. Obviously this is based on the assumption that McCain’s going to emerge from Florida as the “moderate” alternative to Mitt. If Rudy beats him there, it’s a three-man race. Interestingly, if Rudy doesn’t beat him there, he’ll probably stagger on to Super Tuesday anyway just because New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are in play. (Or is it too late?) And if so, to the extent that he’d be pulling moderates from McCain, he’d be a stalking horse himself — for Mitt Romney.