While he didn’t even compete in Iowa, John McCain is the big winner tonight as the Iowa Caucus results unfold — and as Mitt Romney takes a big hit from Mike Huckabee in the run-up to the New Hampshire primary.
McCain couldn’t have scripted it any better: a weakened, vulnerable Romney will now stagger into New Hampshire, and the Arizona maverick has his Massachusetts nemesis in the cross-hairs, and engendering a double dose of disdain to boot. While Huckabee will move on to regroup for South Carolina, the McCain-Romney showdown is a struggle that will almost certainly end up in death for the loser. Romney, like George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan before him, has his back to the wall.
McCain also handled the media spin perfectly: as soon as Huckabee was declared the Iowa winner just after 9pm EST, McCain was in New Hampshire before the cameras congratulating Huckabee and slamming Romney. He seized the moment as well as the high ground by lambasting Romney as the negative campaigner whose ad effort backfired against Huck.
Tonite is also a bad night for the GOP establishment, who must now contend with the possibility that McCain, of all people, may have to rescue the GOP from Huckabee, who will never be embraced as a presdiential standard-bearer.
The big GOP consultant winners tonite are Rick Davis and Mark McKinnon with McCain, who stuck with McCain when he was declared a walking corpse earlier this year.