James Forsyth

Can McCain keep the momentum going?

Can McCain keep the momentum going?
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Today, John McCain will either take a massive stride towards winning the Republican nomination by winning the Michigan primary or a triumph for Mitt Romney will scramble the contest still further. McCain is the candidate with the wind at his back. His victory in New Hampshire has vaulted him into a considerable lead in the national polls and in the crucial first in the South primary in South Carolina. Victory tonight should ensure that McCain maintains his lead in South Carolina and if he wins there, McCain will likely win in Florida and pick up the lion’s share of delegates on Super Tuesday; leaving him as the Republican nominee presumptive.

A McCain victory, though, can not be taken for granted. The polls show a race that is far too tight to call with Romney enjoying considerable support in the state where his father was a beloved, three-term governor. Michigan with its troubled auto-industry also allows Romney to flag up his business turnaround experience as well as dinging McCain for his stance on cutting carbon emissions to deal with global warming: something that many in Detroit believe—wrongly—will be harmful to the auto industry.  Add to this an expected snow storm which will likely depress turnout, which favours Romney, and it is easy to imagine the former Massachusetts governor boasting about winning the gold on Tuesday night.

If Romney wins, the South Carolina Republican primary on Saturday becomes even more crucial. A McCain setback in Michigan could pave the way for Mike Huckabee, the Christian populist, or even Fred Thompson, the Senator turned actor, to make a major play for the state. Romney could also be boosted by a better than expected showing there and an expected win in the Nevada caucus. In these circumstances, Rudy Giuliani also comes back into the game. With the field so unsettled, it is possible that Giuliani’s strategy of relying on a win in Florida on January 29th to set him up for a string of victories on February 5th could just pay off.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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