That’s tough to do when the Romney campaign was blitzkrieging the airwaves of a television primary with more than $15 million in ads targeting Gingrich. Romney’s win in Florida wasn’t just about the establishment going scorched earth on conservatives. Credit should also be given to the professional Romney campaign apparatus that put together the winning formula and executed it.
4. Gingrich needs to go back on offense.
Former NBA great Charles Barkley once famously said in a Nike commercial, “I ain’t in this league to play defense.” And with Gingrich slipping from his perch as frontrunner for a second time in Florida just as he did in November prior to the Iowa Caucuses, it’s obvious Newt is not either.
Gingrich simply doesn’t play defense well, and it’s been a key reason why he’s been humbled twice this campaign after emerging the frontrunner. On the other hand, when Gingrich is assertive, bold, and playing offense he’s the best candidate in the field. He needs to remember the prevent defense only prevents you from winning, and stay aggressive.
Rick Santorum is at his best attacking Romney. Romney is at his best attacking Gingrich. Gingrich is at his best attacking the media and the issues. Gingrich needs less conversation about Romney’s attack ads and more conversation about the issues and defeating Obama.
5. Romney still has plenty of problems with conservatives.
Almost one-fourth of Romney’s vote total came from Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, and Broward counties. The reason that matters is because it’s highly unlikely any Republican nominee is going to beat Obama in those counties this fall. Meanwhile, Gingrich won more counties in Florida than Romney did, especially the conservative ones. 38% of Romney’s own voters in Florida said in exit polling they’d prefer to have a new candidate. Romney lost the conservative counties in Florida he won going against John McCain four years ago. To put those numbers in perspective, Romney was able to win a double-digit victory in Florida with only 41% of the conservative vote.
Which leads to our final point…
6. Because of those problems with conservatives, Romney’s path to the nomination is problematic.
The Republican Party is a conservative southern party, and the northern Florida counties Gingrich won far more represent the rest of the south than the counties Romney won. A candidate of Romney’s profile is unlikely to fare well in the south, especially with a southern candidate like Gingrich on the ballot.
According to my delegate count, there are at least 600 delegates in states between Texas and West Virginia that Romney will likely not win. Without those delegates it is unlikely Romney can obtain the 1144 delegates required to clinch the nomination prior to the convention. Because of Gingrich’s high name ID, he also doesn’t need much money to win states like Alabama, for example, which have just as many delegates as Romney won in Florida on Tuesday night.
Keep in mind that four years ago Mike Huckabee won Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, West Virginia, and Louisiana after he was no longer a threat to win the nomination, and almost won Missouri and Oklahoma as well. If Huckabee as a less-known and less-funded southern candidate could beat an Arizona RINO like McCain in these southern states, how do you think a better-funded and better-known southerner like Gingrich might do against a Massachusetts RINO?
If you project out what Romney would have to do to win the nomination without all those southern delegates, he will have to virtually sweep the rest of the map. Except the rest of the map features at least 15 states that allocate delegates proportionally, which doesn’t leave much margin for error because Romney needs all the winner-take-all states outside the south he can get.
Bottom line: if conservatives want to use Gingrich to stop Romney from becoming the nominee and fight this out at the convention, they most definitely can.