- Tim Stanley: After second place in Florida, only ego propels Newt Gingrich forward
- He says Gingrich and others may fantasize about nomination, but it's not likely to happen
- He says coming primary states not good prospects for him; he needs momentum to get money
- Stanley: Mitt Romney may outspend him, but Gingrich not likely to give up
The only thing that will keep Newt Gingrich running past Florida is ego.
It's no great surprise that Gingrich lost Florida. He was dead from the moment that he clammed up in the Florida debates -- and the millions that Mitt Romney poured into the state in negative ads didn't help either. A lesser man would be crushed by this result. But Gingrich isn't just a man. He's a visionary, a historian, the inventor of supply side economics, a space marine and a latter-day Casanova. I'm getting all this off the back of one of his DVDs (just kidding).
Newt has promised to soldier on right up to the Republican National Convention in late August. To be fair, he has good cause to keep running. Gingrich is leading in the national polls, and only 5% of the total delegates have been selected thus far, so there's still a lot in play.
Most of the states are distributing their delegates proportionately to the vote that each candidate gets. That means that there is a good chance that Romney won't go to the convention with the necessary "50% plus one" that he needs to win on the first ballot. If Gingrich enters the convention with the second-largest number of delegates, he could either horse trade his way to the nomination or play kingmaker.
The above scenario is an exciting fantasy to political wonks, and the commentators have been discussing it ad infinitum. But it would require a lot of money from Gingrich and a lot of patience from the voters to work. Both are likely to run out by Super Tuesday on March 6.
The problem is that February is packed full of states that are unlikely to give Gingrich a good showing.
Nevada (Saturday) is Mormon country and was handily won by Romney in 2008. Maine (February 11) is a moderate New England state. Michigan (February 28) is where Romney grew up. Gingrich isn't even on the ballot in the eminently winnable Missouri caucus (February 7).
There is hope for Gingrich in Colorado, Minnesota (both February 7) and Arizona (February 28). But even though he's polling well in those states, he faces a big problem: Rick Santorum.
Santorum realizes that he needs to steal some of Gingrich's tea party vote and is using negative advertizing to do it. Just today, he launched an ad in Nevada and Colorado that effectively called Gingrich a socialist.
Given that he's unlikely to win a single convincing victory throughout February, Gingrich will struggle to keep up momentum. That's because no momentum means no money. Worse still, there's a chance that Republican voters will grow bored of the contest and succumb to the logic of a Romney candidacy, if only to get Gingrich off the TV.
Meanwhile, Romney has the money to hold up his ruthless barrage against Gingrich. It's interesting to note that where Romney spends the most, he wins.
In South Carolina, he only outspent Gingrich 2:1 and lost. In Florida, he outspent him roughly 5:1 and won. And that ugly attrition does make a quantifiable difference. One CBS exit poll found that 39% of voters admitted that advertising affected their decision. Romney ran only one positive ad in Florida. It was in Spanish.
In short, just about the only thing that will propel Gingrich through to the national convention is ego. But that ego is large enough to have a gravitational pull of its very own -- so don't expect to see Newt stop now.
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