For Romney, Cain's destruction is a true positive. Suddenly he gets more attention, becomes the front-runner he was "meant to be" and can attempt to use his massive war chest to take command of circumstances as planned. As long as Cain remained in first place, Romney had no chance of winning the state he first considered skipping -- Iowa. But with Cain gone, Iowa could be within reach. That would be a huge unexpected conservative victory that would likely propel the former governor to a GOP nomination.
In Gingrich's case, a Cain decline means a Gingrich rise toward the top. During the many debates, Gingrich has served as the voice of reason -- preferring to attack moderators, President Obama, anyone other than his fellow GOP contestants. Gingrich's likeability numbers, once his biggest problem, have risen like a rocket. And he has already been judged the "smartest of the bunch" by most GOP voters, even if they did not think him electable. The former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is by far the most conservative candidate to be left standing in the "anybody but Romney effort."
Certainly I must disclose that I have known Gingrich since I was a teenager and headed his political operations when he was speaker. But anyone who has followed my polling or columns knows that I am the first to punch him when he's wrong, or to release polls that are unflattering to Newt. Newt is a big boy, and my professional standards do not impact our personal relationship.
If I were a betting man, I would still bet that Romney wins the nomination. That said, Newt Gingrich could pull the comeback of all time -- or at the very least, secure a spot as the vice presidential nominee for 2012. I mean, hey, Dick Cheney makes Newt look like Johnny Depp.