Tomorrow’s GOP primary in Florida, the fourth of the schedule, brings to a close a first phase which has, frankly, been absolutely bonkers.
The question is whether the quieter and less significant weeks between the 1st of February and Super Tuesday on the 6th of March will spell the certain end of the Gingrich campaign, or simply breathing space before another tumultuous period in Spring.
I didn’t realise until reading this post on Chris Cillizza’s The Fix (I am a Wannabe Yank, after all) but only three of the eight contests between Florida and Super Tuesday will result in delegates being allocated. And because of large Mormon populations or Mitt’s local roots, Romney is likely to win all of these three.
There’s also the question of Newt’s money and other resources running out, a point made by Cillizza too: Gingrich is substantially dependant on a millionaire Las Vegas casino owner (as classy a backer as it sounds, one would assume, as well as a risky one if the Florida result doesn’t meet expectations).
The problem with this argument, I think, is that it doesn’t account for the sheer speed with which Newt recently (if briefly) established himself as the front-runner, nor the depth and breadth of support he showed himself able to command. And whilst the Speaker’s surge is at an end for now, he has also managed to secure the backing of Tea Party darlings Palin, Perry and Cain.
And the basic calculus won’t shift: most Republicans do not love Romney, and one suspects that all Gingrich needs is another crowd-pleasing media moment in the last week of February or first week of March like the one in the run-up to South Carolina for things to be up in the air again. There is, for absolute certain, more than a smidgeon of wishful thinking at play here on my part too.