Vote for Newt. Annoy a liberal. ~ SARAH PALINWhen the sun comes up tomorrow in the Sunshine State, it is probable that Mitt Romney will have bounced back from his drubbing in South Carolina and defeated Newt Gingrich in the latest installment of the see-saw race for the Republican presidential nomination despite fellow serial adulterer Herman Cain's last-minute endorsement of the former House speaker.
A Florida victory, of course, is good news for Romney, but it also is great news for President Obama and his re-election team because Gingrich will make it clear that he's not going anywhere except back to Florida in August for the national convention in Tampa because his arch rival won't be able to get a majority of delegates.
Primary delegate selection rules would seem to back up this boast.
Rules instituted this year require primary states to distribute their delegates proportionally instead of by winner-take-all. This means that Gingrich can keep amassing a sizable number of delegates even if Romney keeps beating him. Same for Ron Paul, who is now tied with Rick Santorum for third in most polls, and although the number Paul brings may not be sizable, Romney may be unable to get a majority.
In another rule change, the name of any candidate who receives a plurality of delegates in five states will be placed in nomination. In addition to South Carolina, it is not outside the realm of possibility that Gingrich could get a plurality in Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.
Candidates feigning determination to fight on against long odds are a staple of campaigns, but Gingrich is different because of his visceral loathing of Romney and the Republican establishment.
"When you take all the non-Romney votes, it's very likely that at the convention there will be a non-Romney majority and maybe a very substantial one," the candidate said on Sunday. "My job is to convert that into a Gingrich majority."
Gingrich also has an ace in the hole of a sort because the opposition to Romney among the GOP's tail-wagging conservative base has not diminished and it is difficult to see Tea Party diehards capitulating to Romney in Tampa. But having noted that, Gingrich may not get to play his ace. This is because if no candidate has a majority of delegates after the first convention ballot, the job of selecting the nominee will fall on the Republican National Committee, which is comprised of state party chairs and other power brokers who will overwhelmingly favor Romney.
There has been a flurry of commentaries comparing Gingrich's refusal to accede to the law of gravity to Hillary Clinton in 2008, but the comparison is bogus because Clinton was able to hold on because she had a ton of money, which Gingrich does not have even with Sugar Daddy and Mommy Adelman, and a deep national campaign infrastructure, which Gingrich most definitely doesn't have.
Meanwhile, the idea of a White Knight galloping into the fray is ludicrous.
A late entrant would be unable to get on the ballot in many primary states where deadlines have passed, and the 11th hour entry of a draft candidate like Mitch Daniels at the convention is most unlikely. With the election a mere 10 weeks out at that point, this candidate would be screwed with no organization, no money and . . . oh, no platform. Besides which, fantasy candidates always look great because they haven't been subjected to the attacks real candidates have to face.
Beyond the big dance, a prolonged primary battle is more bad news for congressional Republicans.
They have been repeatedly upstaged by the president of late, most recently with the State of the Union speech, their message -- a Big Fat No to anything that would help jump start the economy and create jobs -- isn't playing well out on the hustings, the gulf between House Speaker John Boehner and renegade freshmen is growing, and more moderate Republican senators are increasingly at odds with their lower chamber peers.
But the biggest reason that the primary season has been a mess is because it is a reflection of what the Republican Party has become.
The party's myriad factions have more or less hung together in recent years not because they agree with each other; in fact, there are serious policy disagreements within several of the factions. They have hung together because of the intensity of their hatred for Barack Obama. And that, in the end, is not going to be nearly enough to win the White House is Romney survives or if, miracle of miracles for Democrats, Gingrich prevails.