The polls close in Michigan at 9 p.m., the exact time that a Democratic debate starts in Nevada. Works rather well for the two parties—there's no Democratic primary in Michigan, so Nevada members of the donkey tribe won't be watching the goings-on back east. It's hell on political reporters and junkies, though.
My predictions have been Criswellian in their wrongness, but let's try this one last* time. Only three candidates are on the Democratic ballot so Hillary Clinton will win about 70 percent of the vote, with the rest going to "uncommitted," Kucinich, and Gravel. The Republicans…
1. Mitt Romney (32 percent). Turnout is low and exit polling (so far) shows that voters are four or five times more worried about the economy than about anything else. Romney's "I'll say anything! Anything! I'll fit your hubcaps with crushed diamonds!" campaign will probably pull it off. He'll get a thousand or so votes from mischief-making Democrats, just for gravy.
2. John McCain (29 percent). There aren't enough independents turning out for him and more people are worried about his environmental policies killing their (long-doomed) jobs. It's a good night for Hugh Hewitt and a bad night for Matt Welch, which is not the universe I like to live in, but I'll suck it up.
3. Mike Huckabee (18 percent). His numbers don't matter: He's hoping for Romney to humiliate McCain, which would soften him up for South Carolina and make a Huckabee win there possible.
4. (tie) Ron Paul (7 percent). One day I'm going to predict a good Paul finish and be right about it, and I think this is the day. His on-the-ground organization isn't as good as the Iowa or New Hampshire campaigns, but he'll get more than his share of protest votes from non-Republicans.
4. (tie) Rudy Giuliani (7 percent). Two months ago he led in the polls here.
5. Fred Thompson (5 percent). He's already doubled down in South Carolina. It's working about as well for him as Giuliani's "piss on the early states, I'm going to hang out in the Villages" strategy, but Thompson's taken a little more seriously for some reason.
6. Duncan Hunter (1 percent). He got a delegate in Wyoming!
UPDATE 9:00: Mitt Romney wins the primary, according to every network. Just in time for the debate. And Paul's set to come forth and make it into the storied CNN pie chart.
UPDATE 9:10: In retrospect, I bet the Obama people wish they had stayed on the ballot. Clinton got only 26 percent of the black vote: "Uncommitted" is getting 70 percent. Voters say that if all the Democrats were on the ballot they would have voted 45 to 37 for Hillary, but how different would that have been with a fired-up Wayne County vote? At the least, this suggests Clinton's going to lose South Carolina and that the anti-Obama strategy is risky as hell.
UPDATE 9:26: The GOP exit polls are almost as interesting. Ron Paul's projected to get a strong fourth place, eight or nine percent, and he scored 24 percent of anti-war voters. Who won anti-war voters? John S(urge) McCain.
UPDATE 9:57: Paul's best county looks to be Hillsdale. Homeschoolers of the world, unite!