Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mitt Romney Wins Florida Primary

Mitt Romney won a landslide victory in the Florida Primary on Tuesday. Romney won 46% of the vote; Newt Gingrich placed a distant second with 32%. Florida was a key test for the candidates, a neutral battleground that inherently favored neither Romney nor Gingrich over the other. Romney's big win in Florida is a strong indication that he will win the nomination.

Gingrich's double-digit loss will have a devastating effect on his campaign. Although his concession speech emphasized that there are "46 states to go," the race will actually become increasingly difficult. As time goes on, debates will become infrequent; the role of money, organization, and momentum will become more important. That's why Gingrich needed a big win in Florida. Even more alarming was the extent of Romney's win:

Florida Primary (98% reporting)
Romney -- 46%
Gingrich -- 32%
Santorum -- 13%
Paul -- 7%

Even supposing Rick Santorum had dropped out of the race, adding several additional points to Gingrich's total (and a few to Romney's), Romney would have beaten Gingrich in Florida by a comfortable margin. If Romney is able to repeat his Florida performance in in similar states, he will win the nomination with little difficulty.

Santorum's support eroded after Gingrich's win in South Carolina, but Santorum's debate performance on Thursday apparently stopped the bleeding. Gingrich's defeat to Romney strengthens Santorum's argument that the Anti-Romney voters have backed the wrong horse. However, Santorum placed so far behind Gingrich that it will be difficult for voters to see him as a viable candidate.

Is there any chance left for Gingrich or Santorum to win the nomination? At this point, their best hope is to absolutely destroy Romney during the remaining debates. Otherwise, only some unforeseen scandal or catastrophe can turn things around.