Moving Past Florida

“It’s like we’re facing Jimmy Carter and nominating Alf Landon.”

More and more polls show two things: (1) tonight Mitt Romney will win Florida and (2) Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum will combined get more votes. In fact, moving forward, the Romney campaign will probably engage in a concerted effort to prop up Rick Santorum because as long as he stays in the race, Gingrich will find it very difficult to stop Romney. More interestingly, if Santorum drops out and Newt Gingrich starts winning, suddenly the establishment will have to take seriously the idea of finding someone to replace Mitt Romney.I get repeated calls asking me to ask Rick Santorum to get out of the race. I doubt he would even listen and, unlike Rick Perry, Rick Santorum actually won a state. Today he is going to get badly, badly beaten. And it’ll probably be downhill from there. But there’s no more reason to ask him to get out of the race than Gingrich. He can decide to stay in and help Romney or get out and help Gingrich.After Florida, the decisions become more crucial.There will be a series of nonbinding caucuses in February: Maine on February 4-11; Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri on February 7. There will be a binding caucus in Nevada on February 4, which the Gingrich camp is rumored to be ceding to Romney. Michigan and Arizona will both have closed primaries on February 28th. Both favor Romney because of ties to the states. Super Tuesday hits March 6 with elections in Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia. Will the non-Romney’s support Ron Paul in Virginia and Gingrich rally Georgia to his cause?Gingrich and Santorum will have to fight both for the conservative vote and to make up ground against the Romney money machine. The odds are long that either can do it. Together, they cannot. One of them will have to depart the race if they want to stop Romney — assuming they do.In all of this, I get the real sense that there are wounds opening up that will not be healed by November of 2012. Mitt Romney, in deciding to run the McCain strategy from 2008, may be doing himself more damage than McCain ever did to himself. We knew what we were getting with McCain. But the Romney of 2012 is a different creature from the Romney of 2008. That has energized many to stop him and kept his support an inch deep.It’s like we’re facing Jimmy Carter and nominating Alf Landon.



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