There's no denying that Mitt Romney had a big win in Florida Tuesday night. A 14.5% win over Gingrich slightly trumps Newt's big 12.6% win in SC but with a much bigger delegate haul. Once again, the power of money came through with Mitt outspending Newt by more than 3 to 1.
But at the Gingrich concession rally you wouldn't know Newt lost. His speech was positive, energetic and filled with the kind of conservative ideas that have made him the Tea Party and conservative champion in the race. Newt outlined a 21st Century Contract with America that is his personal promise of what he will do within moments of taking the Oath of Office as President. It's a bold action plan designed to immediately reverse the worst of the Obama, Reid, Pelosi legacy. It's that kind of bold action that we just don't see coming from Romney.
94% of convention delegates yet to be chosen.
Florida was a big win for Romney because it suggest that he will be strong in large states with more moderate populations. And Romney now has the lead in delegates but only 71 total with 1144 needed for nomination (Newt has 23). The Washington Post has an interesting chart showing the timeline for how delegates are accumulated and also marking where other past GOP candidates had the race sewn up. The earliest was approximately March 4, 2008 when John McCain had it in the bag. And we all remember how that worked out.
Romney Weakness Unabated?
Another fact to keep in mind is that despite Romney's strength in Florida he still can't quite close the sale with the majority of GOP voters. According to Florida exit polls, 38% of Romney voters wish another candidate was running. He still can't quite make the sale.
If Santorum, who only received 13.4% down from 17% in South Carolina were to drop out Newt would be very well positioned to take on Romney in a contest that was close to 50-50 despite Romney's continuing HUGE money advantage (he has $19 million in cash compared to $1 million for Newt).
Santorum went on to Nevada which will hold their caucus in a few days. He made a Florida concession speech from a meeting in Las Vegas that had only about two dozen supporters present. Not exactly a rousing show of strong public support.
If Newt can hold out until Santorum runs out of money or realizes the game is up we may have end up with a two man race in the remaining states. It's a race that continues to favor Romney in nearly every respect but is not impossible for Gingrich.
Keep in mind is that Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama by 13% in the 2008 Florida primary and the Democrat's nominating contest went on for months with obviously no ill-effect on the November outcome. Remember also that Hillary Clinton was considered the inevitable Democrat nominee early on....