It seems like the parlor game de jour is assessing the prospects of a McCain 2008 ticket as an independent candidacy. A little background, first...the always interesting Mickey Kaus spins out a plethora of possibilities predicated on a plurality Presidential vote for McCain (try saying that ten times fast).
The question before the court is this: McCain runs as a third party candidate, wins a plurality but not a majority in the Electoral College, thus the election is thrown into the House, the domicile of the two dominant parties. Mickey, with the help of his readers, lays out some possible victory scenarios, as does the Minuteman (with a tantalizingly vague reference to yours truly), while providing a civics lesson on proportional representation and teasing out some interesting strategic switch-off possibilities.
I wouldn't dream of suggesting that I am in the same league as these two distinguished gentlemen when it comes to the ins and outs of the Electoral College, but here's my shot at reading the tea leaves. McCain simply cannot wait out another election cycle, but he's clearly setting himself up as the Republican nominee. Every decision he has made since about mid-2003 seems to point in this direction, most particularly his peace overtures to the Bushes. For fundraising purposes, he needs to keep that channel open.
The wild card is Rudy G. If the former New York mayor runs, how can George W. possibly withhold his endorsement from one of the nation's most potent symbols of 9/11? Or (a longer shot) Condi (whose odds I need to revisit soon)? Under either scenario, I think McCain will take a serious look at running as an independent, depending on Rudy's and/or Condi's polling and fundraising (I suspect each would excel in both categories). In an election with both McCain and Rudy G., or McCain and Condi, or even Rudy and Condi, for that matter, I think the splitting of the Republican and moderate votes would be so severe that we would be saying hello to Madam President in January, 2009...
UPDATE 8:25 p.m. central: By the way, many thanks to the Minuteman for the links, and let's make it official: time to drop Condi's odds and raise McCain's. Given the fact that he's clearly floating trial balloons and gearing up for a run, and the dying down of the Condi buzz, I'm going with:
McCain's Current Odds: 12-1
Condi's Current Odds: 15-1
Also, in reference to George W.'s endorsement, there's a very real possibility he'll (at least officially) decline to endorse anyone in the primaries...