I'd be curious to read Mike's or Noam's (or Eve's!) thoughts on the subject, but I think the Republicans may avert one disaster (a Huckabee nomination)--only to find themselves in another perilous situation. Elite opinion seems to have decided that Romney is now likely to win Iowa on Thursday (the betting markets agree--and the trendlines are not good for Huckabee). Assuming this is correct, Romney's chances become even better in New Hampshire five days later. In short, Romney could sweep the early states (Michigan and South Carolina are both looking promising for him). And even if McCain pulls out a victory in NH, you'd still have to say Romney was the favorite to win the nomination.
About a year ago, Romney appeared to have two giant weaknesses: a history of flip-flops and religious beliefs that made conservative evangelicals uncomfortable. I had assumed that if Romney made it as far as the general election, he would have gone some way to solving both problems--thus making him a stronger candidate in November. But the craziness of the GOP race this year, and a fractured and unpopular field, could in fact mean that Romney will be able to cruise to the nomination without having resolved either of his glaring weaknesses. Does anyone think Romney will be able to get huge a huge turnout from the religious right next year? Does anyone think the media is tired or running stories on Romney's changing positions? Does anyone in the GOP even particularly like the guy? If you don't want a President Clinton or President Obama to take the oath of office in 2009, this has to be very worrying.