One thing's for sure Bush is nervous. Sure, everyone has been talking about firewalls; how W. doesn't need to worry because John Engler is going to wrap Michigan up in a nice blue box and personally deliver it to Austin; how there's no way in heck that McCain walks out of California a viable candidate. And yet Bush is worried, because even as a relative political neophyte he knows that the easiest and best way to stop your opponent is never to let him get started. So he's staking quite a bit of his capital here, both political Bush says he won't pull ads attacking McCain, a move that could backfire and fiscal: His impressive $70 million war chest could be down to just $18 million by the time polls close in the Palmetto State.
It just might be working. After McCain's big New Hampshire win vaulted him into a dead heat with Bush in South Carolina polls, McCain's momentum appears to have slowed, with the two remaining neck-and-neck over the past week. And if W.'s ads and newfound aggressiveness change some Republican hearts and minds while keeping Democrat and independent turnout low, South Carolina and the GOP nomination is his. The risk, of course, in staking everything is that while South Carolina could be his Gettysburg, it could also be his Waterloo.