It’s now Romney’s to lose.
Time and again Gingrich has been knocked down only to rise again. But the Lazarus-like resurrection of Newt Gingrich that followed out of South Carolina didn’t hold up in Florida. Romney beat Gingrich by over 250,000 votes and 14 percentage points to take all 50 delegates from the Sunshine State and gain increasingly unstoppable momentum in the Republican nomination race.
It’s now Romney’s nomination to lose, a fact that still doesn’t sit that well with many Republicans. The Saturday Night Live gag featuring a Romney character offering snacks to the crowd in the form of saltine crackers and water is all too true for many Republicans. The apparent gallows conversion to true conservatism as a means of winning the nomination in what is clearly his last shot strikes Tea Partiers and other members of the conservative base as transparent and convenient.
But the inevitability factor is kicking in and Republicans will likely follow their instinct to fall in line behind the establishment candidate, whatever his flaws.
What is now emerging is a race between Romney and Obama. For the rest of the primary season, Gingrich, Santorum and Paul will serve in a role similar to that of the practice squad on a football team, helping to expose vulnerabilities and to sharpen execution in advance of the contest that counts.