McCain Beats Hillary by a wide margin, attracting 90% of the independents and 20% of the democrats. Hillary flames out like a Howard Dean amidst fundraising scandals.
McCain beats Obama by a decent but narrower margin, getting 65% of the independents and between 5% and 10% of the Democrats. Obama’s shine starts to fade (no racist pun intended) after his voting record is illuminated and he has to take a stand on issues and get beyond waxing poetic plattitudes about change.
The surge in Iraq is successful, troops start coming home in the summer more in symbolic numbers than in mass. (Democrats either declare it is political grandstanding by the Republicans or take credit for it.) The specific war in Iraq becomes less of an issue, but the war against terror remains a major focus. This plays to McCain.
Huckabee would likely lose to either in a very tight race, but I think he is out now. The independents are not evangelists and would be suspect of the guy who studied “miracles” in college and believes the earth is only 6,000 years old. He would get no Democratic support, less than 30% of the independents, and could lose 10% of the Republicans.
Yes I realize I differ from the McCain bashers in thinking that Huckabee would lose more of the Republican base than the more liberal McCain, but I think that with the alternatives McCain would get a bigger share of the Republican base. While the evangelicals heavily support Huckabee, there are many Republicans who prefer to keep religion, especially when mixed with populism, from the political discourse.
Just my opinion. Or maybe just wishful thinking.