A Newt win in Florida will certainly extend things further into the year, however if Mitt sweeps those northern winner-take-all primaries, I don't see how this goes all the way to the convention.
Part of the problem is that it feels as if Romney 2012 is trying to pull off a rerun of the Obama 2008 campaign, running as a largely blank slate, letting voters of diverse ideological stripes project their desires and preferences onto him. The problem is that you can run that when you're a biracial young man with little or no political record ("present!"), an exotic personal story (Indonesia! Hawaii! Harvard! The mean streets of Chicago!) and rhetorical skills that are, if overrated, effective at hitting the emotional soft spots of the media and low-information swing voters.
"I believe in America"? That's what you're going with this cycle, governor? I'm sorry, you don't get to quote The Godfather unless you've killed a bunch of your enemies while attending a baptism. Sure, Romney can have his super PAC run some attack ads against Newt, but does anybody think of Mitt Romney as a tough guy? As a fighter? As somebody whom you can disagree with, but whom you wouldn't want to cross?
I've laid out my gripes with Newt. But Romney is making that divided convention, party-elders-look-for-a-
unifying-candidate scenario look better and better each day. With Ron Paul playing the delegate game quite smartly, and neither Mitt nor Newt likely to close the deal with unimpressed Republican voters, the deadlocked-convention scenario looks a lot more plausible than usual.
At least, let's put off that final decision as long as possible. As Jordan Gehrke wrote not long ago:
It's easy to get swept away in the feeling that this nominating process has to end early. But really, why should it? At the end of February, the Republican National Committee will have awarded only 174 RNC delegates out of the 1,143 needed to lock up the nomination. A long primary would allow Republicans to protect their nominee, grow the party, and avoid handing Obama an early target. Let's hope history repeats itself.
But wouldn't that be something? Delegates are committed to their candidates for the first ballot only. After that, they can vote for anyone they choose, including people who weren't on the original ballot.
But winning Florida is not sure bet for Newt. I'm not sure how his moon and Mars comments yesterday will play with those Florida voters not on the Space Coast. It appears to me that his numbers have peaked and may start edging down. A Romney win in Florida could tip the scales and end this nomination process much earlier.