Imagine if you will: Newt Gingrich wins South Carolina tomorrow by 5 points over Romney (could well happen). Ron Paul comes in third, as usual, and Rick Santorum is a disappointing fourth. Following that, Santorum, who is out of money and momentum, withdraws from the race and backs Gingrich in a last-ditch effort to undermine Romney’s candidacy.
Suddenly, the only not-Mitt candidate who isn’t Ron Paul, the GOP’s crazy uncle, is Newt Gingrich. That allows Gingrich to go on a fundraising tear, pulling in millions in a few days, and also encourages his Super PAC to go hog-wild in Florida. Furthermore, Gingrich now has Rick Perry and Santorum as surrogates. Romney of course will hit back via his SuperPAC, as he did in Iowa, but remember that Romney has rarely exceeded 30% in national polling, and he didn’t hit 40% even in New Hampshire, one of his strongest states. To what extent does the non-Mitt vote coalesce around Gingrich in Florida, and how well can he do in that very large, expensive state?
After Florida, there are a bunch of caucuses (NV, ME, CO, and MN), which are hard to predict because they’re not regular elections. I don’t know enough about how those caucuses work to have a feel for whether a still-underfunded (though gaining ground) but momentum-feeling Gingrich could do well in those states. The next major primaries aren’t until February 28, when Arizona and Michigan will vote. That’s a lot of time in which a surging Gingrich could raise money and get boots on the ground in those states. Furthermore, we know that Romney performs at his absolute worst when he is feeling the heat – he gets testy, his fake smile gets even more brittle, and he says stupid things. Expect more of that if Gingrich gains strength.
How do you see all this playing out?