McCain & Clinton: Thanks Thompson, Richardson

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This is a simple observation. But McCain and Hillary owe a debt of gratitude today to Fred Thompson and Bill Richardson.

Thompson, a McCain ally in his Senate tenure, attacked Huckabee in the SC debate, and managed to split the evangelical vote with Hucky... leaving McCain in the victory circle.

The absence of Bill Richardson was arguably the difference maker in Nevada on Saturday. Richardson, who at times in the past months seemed to be running a race for Hillary's VP, mysteriously cleared out of the presidential race right before Nevada caucuses, where his advantages of geography and ethnicity stood to propel him to his best showing of the early races.

Had he remained in the race, the Hispanic vote would have been more hotly contested, and Obama likely would have emerged the popular vote, as well as the delegate-count, winner in the Silver State.

UPDATE: Huckabee's camp agrees with me on the Fred Thompson score. From MSNBC:

Former SC Gov. David Beasley, a Huckabee surrogate, railed against Thompson.

'Fred hurt us in South Carolina,' Beasley began. 'He had one goal and one goal only -- to distort Mike Huckabee's record so John McCain could pull it out. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

'Thompson came here and just went to the areas where he could gut Huckabee. I have no doubt in my mind, it was Washington politics at its worst.

'One thing about Fred; I love Fred, but Fred's not stupid. I don't think he had any intention in South Carolina but to hurt Mike Huckabee. Had Fred Thompson not been in the race, this would have been an overwhelming, dynamic victory for Mike Huckabee.'