Jon Huntsman Is Missing a Great Opportunity Tonight

Mike Huckabee is hosting a candidates’ forum thingy on his Fox News show tonight, which will last two hours instead of one.  Each candidate will appear on stage separately and answer questions posed by current state attorneys general.  Each candidate will have the same amount of time, something that doesn’t happen in the debates.

Jon Huntsman won’t be there.  I don’t know if he declined or wasn’t invited.

But I think it’s an unfortunate missed opportunity for Huntsman to make his case before millions of GOP primary voters.  Huckabee always gets good ratings and should have even higher ones for this show.  Huntsman complains of being ignored in the debates, but he could have had equal time with Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

Who Said This about Herman Cain?

Who said this about Herman Cain:  “The fact this guy got this far knowing nothing, standing for nothing…is more of an indictment against us than Mr. Cain.”?

Diane Sawyer?  Scott Pelley?  Brian Williams?

Actually it was Steve Deace, the conservative talk radio host based in Des Moines, who is one of the most politically powerful people in Iowa.  Ask Mitt Romney, whom he helped defeat in the Iowa Caucus in 2008.  Ask Mike Huckabee, whom he helped win.

Aside from calling out Cain for being an idiot, Deace has also accused him of “awkward and inappropriate” behavior toward Deace’s female staffers.

Winning the Iowa Caucus and getting on Steve Deace’s bad side are mutually exclusive.

Rick Perry’s Early Lead

National polls, which currently show Rick Perry quickly taking a big lead, are interesting, but meaningless.  The polls to watch are those in the early states.  I would especially keep an eye on Florida, where Mitt “I’m Also Unemployed” Romney currently leads.  If Perry opens up a lead in Florida, Mitt’s in trouble.

In 2008, Rudy Giuliani chose to pin his hopes on Florida, and his strategy failed.  This time, Mitt may not choose Florida as his battleground state, but it may choose him.

Mitt is expected to win New Hampshire, Nevada, and Michigan.  That’s already built into his narrative.  A successful challenge to him in one or more of those states would be a huge blow to him, especially New Hampshire because of all the attention it gets as the first primary and his strong ties to that state.

While people talk about the power of the first three (Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina), I give special significance to South Carolina because of the momentum it inevitably creates for Florida.  Romney came in fourth in South Carolina last time, then second in Florida after John McCain, and dropped out soon after.  McCain’s good buddy Fred Thompson stayed in the South Carolina race solely to play spoiler, helping McCain narrowly defeat Mike Huckabee, giving McCain the buzz he needed to win Florida and the nomination.

Mitt needs a thick enough cushion in Florida that his expected loss in South Carolina won’t have a dramatic spillover effect.  The more the South Carolina vote is split (as between Perry and Michele Bachmann), the better off Mitt is.  If anyone rides a steamroller out of the Palmetto State, Mitt’s the one who will be flattened.