Huckabee was gracious in defeat, but his praise of McCain felt faintly like an audition for a spot on his ticket. His harsh truth: If he can't win in South Carolina, with its evangelicals and (relatively) level playing field, where can he win? "Not getting a victory in this conservative state is a blow to his underdog hopes of winning the GOP nomination," Dan Balz writes in The Washington Post. LINK
"Honor will not get Huckabee the nomination," writes Time's Michael Scherer. "As the calendar flies by, the states get bigger and even more costly, putting his shoestring campaign under increasing pressure. And Huckabee is still struggling to appeal beyond his evangelical base. In two states now, Michigan and South Carolina, his message of economic populism has failed to make substantial inroads." LINK
Romney's decision to flee South Carolina at the end looks like a brilliant stroke -- he knew he couldn't win, but found a way to work himself up a positive storyline. He won Nevada by 40 points, and got to declare victory hours before McCain. " 'Landslide' is not a strong enough word for Mitt Romney's victory in Nevada's Republican caucuses Saturday," Molly Ball writes in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. LINK
But a few facts worth remembering: First, second place was occupied by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas; he was the only other Republican candidate to seriously campaign in Nevada. And Romney came in fourth -- behind Thompson -- in South Carolina.
He really did try -- very hard, actually -- to win South Carolina. "There was something about the former Massachusetts governor that turned off Palmetto State voters," Lee Bandy writes in The State, estimating Romney's efforts at costing $280,000 a week. "Among S.C. voters who told exit pollsters Saturday the main reason they voted for a candidate was because he 'says what he believes,' Romney finished last among the five candidates who actively campaigned here." LINK
The GOP race moves even further south, "to a new ground zero: Florida," Adam C. Smith reports in the St. Petersburg Times. "Now, the main event in Florida looks to be Romney vs. McCain." LINK
"Unlike in South Carolina, McCain-leaning independent voters can't participate in Florida's Jan. 29 primary, and the heavily Republican Cuban-American community, whose leaders are split among the candidates, looms as one of the biggest prizes," Beth Reinhard and Lesley Clark write in the Miami Herald. "McCain plans to kick off his Florida tour Monday at the landmark Versailles restaurant in Little Havana and then head to Jacksonville and Pensacola, where the Vietnam War hero can tap a large population of military retirees and their families." LINK
Former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., has been waiting in Florida (even as firefighters seek to set his firewall on fire), and Rudy greeted his rivals with a rare direct tweak Saturday night. "John McCain voted with the Democrats against the tax cut twice. And Mitt Romney did not clearly support the Bush tax cuts," Giuliani said at The Villages retirement community on Saturday, ABC's Jan Simmonds reports. LINK
Back on the Democratic side -- what to make of Bill? His latest eruptions, blasting the caucus process and then claiming to witness voter intimidation just hours before the caucuses, mark the second straight time he has turned purple in public just before a big vote.