It is all over for Mike Huckabee. Today, Rush Limbaugh anointed him the "candidate the media wants to win." So long, Mike. We hardly knew ye. Do not let my light-hearted tone mislead you. I am 100 percent serious. Mike Huckabee's candidacy is now "deader than a door nail." Nobody comes back from this kind of pronouncement at the hands of Rush Limbaugh, the king of all conservative media. John McCain is still working (tragically and without any real hope of success) to overcome Rush's negative designation from back in 2000.

Even before this lethal blow, Huckabee was swimming against an arrestingly strong tide of resistance. Ironically, Huckabee's evangelical background is even more problematic for a Republican running for president in 2008 than Mitt Romney's Mormonism.

What's wrong with being an evangelical Republican in 2008?

1. To put it mildly, the axis of liberalism (Hollywood, the mainstream media, and the academy) looks askance at this particular religious persuasion. In a tight general election, this tradition opens up gaping holes for the opposition.

2. More importantly, a vital element of the conservative movement has soured on evangelicals. Traditional conservatives (many of whom are Catholic) are generally much more staid in their religious traditions than the evangelical variety. For many of the paleo-conservatives, George Bush represents much of what went wrong with evangelical conservatism (what Bush called "compassionate conservatism"). They see the Bush administration as disastrously unorthodox--even dangerous. Think of these examples: an evangelical foreign policy (saving the world through the gospel of democracy), using government to ameliorate the human condition ("no child left behind" and prescription drugs for seniors), and his "traitorously bleeding-heart" immigration proposals.

Traditional conservatives see the Arkansan preacher-turned-pol as more of the same, and they are coming out of the woodwork to throw cold water on the Huckabee boomlet.

3. Ironically, even evangelicals are divided. The traditional evangelical political leadership has not embraced Huckabee. While Pat Robertson et al probably do not speak for many evangelicals anymore (if they ever did), their reluctance to support this ordained Baptist minister speaks volumes about the emerging rift among born-again Christians.

Some of the division is generational. The older evangelicals are more conservative politically and more Southern than the new crop (think Rick Warren), who take a softer view of social conservatism. Huckabee's concern for environmental issues, his willingness to pursue social engagement, and his position on immigration is very much in line with an emerging composite of modern rank-and-file evangelicalism.

No wonder the paleos have had enough.

In all seriousness, the brief affair between Southern-based evangelical churches and the GOP may be approaching a dramatic rupture. Of course, in the general election, where exactly do these Mike Huckabee evangelicals have to go?

As for the rest of the party of Lincoln, where are we now?

For the moment, the race remains a fairly static contest. The following is a review of some of my earlier thoughts from the middle of last month, which seem more true today than three weeks ago.

Rudy is out. Forget about the polls. I love Rudy. I really do. But every passing day makes it clearer and clearer to me that Rudy is not the kind of fellow who takes the GOP nomination. He is too New York. He is too lawyerly. He is on his third marriage. His kids don't seem to like him. Bernie Kerik. Judith Regan. [Add to that the latest scandal involving his current wife, then-mistress.] Gun Control. Pro Choice. Not going to happen. Rudy for AG. Rudy for DHS. But never on a GOP ticket.

John McCain is still out. He is a fighter. He would have been a great president. He is smart. He is tough. He understands the art of the deal. But he is a non-starter at this point.

Mike Huckabee is the fresh-faced wild card. He will make an impact--but he probably doesn't have the foundation for a legitimate run at the big time. He will be exciting, but, in the end, he probably falls well short.

Mitt Romney has a great strategy and a lot of money. Although he is nowhere in the polls right now, his campaign is the smartest and best funded. He could take off in Iowa and New Hampshire, gain momentum, and stampede the competition. The Mormon thing is a minor nuisance. I continue to believe his religion is a non-issue for most people. Would it come up eventually? Yes. If nominated, Democrats would make sure every evangelical in America knew Romney was Mormon--and we would find out more about Mormonism between Labor Day and Halloween than we had learned over a lifetime. Remember how John Kerry and John Edwards both took great pains to interject Mary Cheney's homosexuality into the national debates? We would see a plethora of Mormon stories from all angles, all the while bemoaning the fact that so many Americans were still so closed minded. Double prizes. Submarine the GOP candidate while spreading ugly stereotypes about GOP voters. But I don't think it gets that far. Romney is too Massachusetts. He has too many center-left skeletons in his closet. I can see how he wins the nomination--but my gut feeling is that he will not.

This leaves Fred. He has a horrible organization and he is currently running the worst campaign. But he is the best candidate. That is, he is the most convincing, most likable, most consistent conservative in the race. He very likely wins by default. After everybody else craters, Fred takes the part.

I hate to mention this--but things are so crazy this year, I think it is actually possible, for the first time since 1976, to have a convention in which the winner is not apparent going in. Things are so murky that several candidates might emerge and split votes in the front-loaded primaries, leaving several candidates with healthy delegate totals but not a majority. If that unlikely eventuality comes to pass, then the convention would be a throwback to something from the last century, and some other prominent Republican might likely emerge as the GOP standard bearer. But that's probably just wishful thinking from the historian in me.