Mitt Romney is on his way to a sweeping victory in Florida, with close to 50% of the vote, compared with 32% or so for Newt Gingrich. It seems reasonable to conclude that South Carolina, and the early days of the Florida campaign, represented the high-water mark of the Gingrich campaign. As voters saw more of Newt, and especially as they witnessed his often over-the-top attacks on Romney, they became disenchanted. With the next Republican contests in Nevada, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, it is hard to see any reason to expected a Gingrich comeback. Comebacks have certainly not been the story of the GOP primaries so far.
While one doesn’t want to be a Pollyanna, it also seems that the South Carolina and Florida experiences have been good for Romney and have made him a stronger candidate. It was when he fought back against Gingrich’s campaign of defamation in the Florida debates that Romney re-established himself as the front-runner. It was, no doubt, good practice for a candidate to whom the rougher elements of the political game do not come easily. Gingrich’s onslaught probably did Romney a good turn by preparing him for the Democrats’ attacks that are yet to come.
Romney will be in Minnesota tomorrow evening with Tim Pawlenty, who has endorsed him. The event will be just a few miles from my house, so I have asked my wife to attend and give us a report (I am traveling on business). No doubt further twists and turns are possible, but tonight does feel like the beginning of the end for the Republican primary process.