|To the bitter end.|
Newt Gingrich won one state yesterday. His home state. True, it's a lot of delegates and a big prize. But it really does very little to help his case that he's a viable candidate. Had he won Tennessee or Oklahoma it would have helped but he still could be seen as a regional candidate. He needed to win Georgia but that was the lowest possible place to set the bar. He needed more to energize his campaign properly. It really would have helped if he'd won a non-regional state - Alaska or Vermont perhaps. But whether he could have or not, he didn't. So what's next in the race becomes entirely dependent on Newt.
What happens next in the race though, truly depends on Gingrich. His strategy is to ride the Georgia victory into a slate of Kansas, Alabama, and Mississippi primaries/caucuses. He needs to win two of those three or he's got to drop out. Kansas is Santorum's to lose. Gingrich is skipping it and so is Romney. That means Gingrich has to win the other two. Romney will likely contest Alabama. If Gingrich really is a regional candidate then his strategy is feasible - at least in the short run. He could carry the two states. Then again, he might not.
If Gingrich doesn't win both, it's very possible he drops out. Maybe he does not drop out immediately, but if his super PAC sponsor(s) abandon him, he'll have to drop out sooner rather than later. If he drops out the race does become a head-to-head a Romney versus the last man standing as Not Romney. It means that there is a greater chance Romney does not win, though he'll remain the favorite.
On the other hand if Gingrich does win and stays in, the race remains murky. Gingrich and Santorum are likely only able to challenge Romney on a regional basis, and he'll remain the one to beat and it will be harder to beat him. What is less clear is that if Gingrich does well in both states does he gain any momentum versus Santorum who probably wins Kansas in the interim. He might, but he probably won't gain enough momentum to shift the Not Romney mantle back to himself. His survive until Texas strategy has been made worse by the shifting of the Texas primary until late May, right near the end of the primary run.
A lot depends on Gingrich now, and it isn't all that good for him, or for Santorum, no matter what Newt does next. Romney is still the guy to beat.
I'll end on a conspiratorial notion. Is it possible that the Gingrich and Santorum fight for the Not Romney mantle, is a GOP establishment ploy that both Gingrich and Santorum are in on, in order to ensure that Romney wins and the illusion of democracy is maintained? That's too sinister for words. I haven't decided if I'm cynical enough to believe it.