The pre-spin is on in Florida, says Matt Lewis:
An internal Gingrich campaign memo obtained by The Daily Caller shows the campaign is planning to continue long after Tuesday’s Florida primary, stating simply: “this race is just getting started.”
The memo, from National Political Director Martin Baker, notes Romney’s lack of conservative grassroots support, and stresses that Romney currently has just 33 of the 1144 needed (Gingrich has 25 of 1144).
“Regardless of who wins on Tuesday,” the memo says, “they will have less than 10% of the delegates they need to claim the nomination….”
Additionally, the memo stresses that the proportional nature of the upcoming contests “essentially guarantees that no candidate will secure the nomination anytime soon and the map quickly becomes more favorable for Gingrich.”
All of that’s true but masks a couple of hard truths for Team Newt. One, he’s lagging way behind in fundraising, and two, he can’t count on debate performances to give him another shot at a Lazarus act, since there are few debates (two, maybe three) on the schedule and Romney’s debate performance improved quite a bit during the two Florida faceoffs. And then, there’s the perception of momentum which will follow the results in Florida. That will drive some fundraising too, likely toward Romney if he wins by double digits.
Super Tuesday will also pose a challenge to any candidate who is both underfunded and lacking in national organization, as those contests disfavor Santorum’s Iowa strategy of visiting all 99 counties and Gingrich’s South Carolina strategy of bashing the media and playing to local issues. The broad geography of Super Tuesday favors a candidate who can dominate the air and get out the vote, and that’s unquestionably Mitt Romney, though within that Georgia and Tennessee may favor Gingrich. Virginia might have functioned as a sort of tie-breaker, but Gingrich isn’t on the ballot there. Only Romney and Paul are.
None of this is to say that Florida effectively ends the primary. It doesn’t. But it does push victory that much farther away for everyone who is not Mitt Romney, if he holds on and wins as seems likely.
Exit thought: It’s possible that two of the GOP’s four remaining candidates would not carry their home states in the fall election. Romney probably won’t carry Massachusetts, and based on how he fared last time he ran statewide, Santorum looks weak to carry Pennsylvania (though Obama is underwater there and has been for a while). Of the two, Santorum’s home field disadvantage would be far worse — the GOP can’t afford to give away PA and win, but it can and expects to lose in MA regardless of who the nominee is.