Mitt Romney's big win in Michigan last night signals that both parties have wide-open 2008 nomination races--but for much different reasons.
Republicans are dispirited and divided, about the merits of their candidates and also about hot-button issues such as immigration and abortion. That has produced a split verdict including wins for Mike Huckabee in Iowa, John McCain in New Hampshire and Romney in his native state.
None of the winners has demonstrated much strength. That's an ideal scenario for Rudy Giuliani and his unusual strategy of waiting to begin his campaign in Florida on Jan. 29, and even for languid Fred Thompson who is seeking a breakthrough in South Carolina this weekend.
The Democratic picture is far different. The party is united on large issues, with two strong and well-funded front-runners in Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and a third competitive candidate in John Edwards. Last night's debate here in Las Vegas showed all three contenders pulling back from charged rhetoric, hoping to avert a damaging split that would only turn off the Democratic base for the general election.
But here's one thing both parties have in common: the prospect of protracted races for the nomination. We've long expected the Feb 5 Mega-Tuesday contest of 22 states to be decisive. But these races could go on longer than that.