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Republican contest could slog on for a long time

Unfortunately Mitt Romney is not likely to be going away anytime soon. While most wonks believe John McCain's victory in New Hampshire catapulted him into front-runner status, that position is awful tenuous. The next few primaries aren't likely to clear up the picture much.

On Tuesday Republican voters will head to the polls in Michigan. The most recent polling data, from the Detroit News, shows Romney with a statistically insignificant lead over Huckabee. But that survey was taken in mid-December and is undoubtedly stale. Prior polls, by MRG and Rasmussen, found McCain and Huckabee to be the narrow front-runners respectively. In other words, it's impossible to say with any credibility who's the favorite. McCain and Romney will both be making a hard push for the state.

South Carolina Republicans vote four days later. Huckabee is counting on a big win there to prove that Iowa was no fluke. Recent polls show his lead ranging from 7 to 17 points, with McCain running second. The Arizona senator has created a "truth squad" in the state to make sure that the highly intelligent, non-racist GOP voters of South Carolina aren't once again conned into believing he fathered a black child out of wedlock. (Fred Thompson is also apparently counting on South Carolina to invigorate his sad, moribund campaign.)

Nevada will vote that day as well, but the Republican field doen't seem particularly interested in the contest. Duncan Hunter should probably focus his attention there.

Then there's Giuiliani. The Emperor of 9/11 has been ridiculed for largely ignoring the early voting states and focusing his attention on Florida. But with the contest looking like it will still be wide open, it's possible that he could resurface as a significant factor heading into the delegate bonanza on February 5.

Here's hoping for a split convention with Jeb Bush emerging as the compromise GOP-endorsee in St. Paul.

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