John Heilemann’s piece, Newt May Be Mad and Mental Enough to Fight On Long After Florida is at the top of Memeorandum today:
And what of Gingrich’s pledge to carry on his crusade all the way to Tampa? That’s takeaway number three. Pledges to continue the fight unabated in the face of harsh and/or humiliating outcomes are staples of presidential campaigns. And they are also patently meaningless. […] But in Gingrich’s case, he might be serious, so much has he come to despise Romney and the Republican Establishment that has brought down on him a twenty-ton shithammer in Florida, and so convinced is he of his own Churchillian greatness and world-historical destiny. The same antic, manic, lunatic bloody-mindedness that has made him such a rotten candidate in the Sunshine State may be enough to keep him the race a good long time.
Waging a protracted battle would likely be an act of futility for Gingrich, but it could turn out to be something much worse for Romney. That is why it’s so important for the latter not just to win on Tuesday but to win big — very big. And that, in turn, is why the matter of margins will be the topic of tomorrow’s column.
If we take a look at the current delegate count, note that Florida is one of the states that gets a 50% penalty because they scheduled their primary too early, and also note that Florida is probably winner take all, the best that Romney can do is to leave that state leading Newt 44-23. No matter how you count it, and that count depends on whether you think the 50% penalty will stick, the winner will need well over 1,100 delegates to win the nomination, and nothing near that number will be awarded until “Super Tuesday”, March 6, where 466 delegates are at stake.
February will be ugly for Newt, with Nevada and Maine (Feb 4), Colorado and Minnesota (Feb 7), Arizona and Michigan (Feb 28) all looking better for Romney, since most those states either have lots of Mormons (Nevada, Colorado and Arizona) or some other tie to Mitt (Michigan has the George Romney connection and Maine is near Massachusetts). But the rule in the Republican Party is proportional delegate allotment unless your state gets special dispensation, so Newt should be able to pick up some of the 187 delegates at stake in those races. There are only four more Republican debates scheduled, and three of them will happen before Super Tuesday, so the notion that Romney will just stop coming to debates ignores the reality of the primary schedule.
Newt would be insane not to stick around until at least Super Tuesday, and Mitt isn’t going to be able to evade his punishment in the debates. Any reporter telling you that it’s only Newt’s “bloody mindedness” keeping him in the race isn’t looking at the delegate math or the debate schedule–they’re just indulging in horserace confabulation.