The February Campaign Schedule: Advantage Mitt

Newt’s best chance for a February win is probably Arizona on February 28. After all, there will be the month’s only debate the week before (Newt’s forte), and more importantly, Arizona is the home of the original “New Right” insurgent, Barry Goldwater.  This will be the best chance to kick over a revolt against the Eastern Establishment, and as an added bonus, it’s a winner-take-all primary.  By winning all 29 of the Grand Canyon State’s delegates, Newt can erase some of the losses he’ll almost surely see in Michigan, Maine, and Nevada.

Mitt Romney is still benefiting from former Census Bureau Director Richard Scammon’s First Rule of Politics: “Happiness is a divided opposition.” And in Florida, Romney took advantage of the divided opposition to win a plurality of 46% and score a 50-0 shut-out in delegates.  Florida exit polls showed that Romney won overwhelmingly among moderates (59-20%), while a split among conservatives allowed Romney to carry that group with just 41%.  If either Gingrich or Santorum can consolidate the conservative majority -- who made up 69% of Florida Republicans -- they can still win.  (But Santorum made it clear that he thinks Newt should be the one that drops out.)  Another reason that the race should go on is that over 85% of the delegates will be chosen after March 1.

It was no accident that during the former speaker's Florida concession speech, Gingrich supporters held up signs that read: “46 States to Go.”  And in February, most of the delegates will be awarded on a proportional basis, thus assuring all the candidates of some delegates. Even after his impressive Florida win, Romney still hadn’t garnered even 10% of the 1144 delegates he needs for a majority. So, there’s lots more campaigning to go.

Super Tuesday looms on March 6, when Gingrich will play on home turf (Georgia) and have a good opportunity for wins in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Idaho as well. But Romney has a chance for an excellent February and has gotten off to a good start with his strong Nevada win.

What does all this mean? I  expect the Romney-Gingrich race to go on until at least April.