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1. Mitt Romney’s biggest advantage is that he simply has a higher margin for error than his opponents. Losing South Carolina was a setback for Romney; it would have probably been fatal to Newt Gingrich’s candidacy. Florida is shaping up to be a similar situation: a loss would have been bad for Romney, but he might have been able to absorb it if his numbers held up in Nevada, Arizona, and Michigan. Gingrich can continue if he loses Florida, but with a much less obvious path to the nomination.
2. Going 1-for-3 in the early nominating contests so far, Romney has definitely underperformed. But I’ve always thought the best way to beat him was for the same non-Romney to win Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida. It looks like each of those three states is going to wind up having a different winner.
3. Odd of Gingrich to opt for such a passive approach to the two Florida debates last week. Not only did being aggressive help him in previous debates, but he had the benefit of seeing how Romney’s prevent defense hurt him in South Carolina. If Gingrich’s sudden collapse in the Florida polls is validated by tomorrow’s primary results, expect that to be one of the decisions that is second-guessed.
4. Jonathan Adler asks why Romney hasn’t made more of an issue of the defects in Gingrich’s record. I think there are two reasons. Gingrich’s turn against many conservative initiatives after losing the government shutdown battle in 1996 and his advocacy of un-conservative positions after leaving Congress were mostly behind the scenes, while his fights on behalf of conservative principles were very public. Second, we’re talking about Mitt Romney: he has neither the credibility to attack Gingrich’s record nor the knowledge of where the bodies are buried.
Gingrich’s feints to the left have had some impact on the race, however. The former House speaker’s longtime advocacy of the individual mandate has definitely blunted his attacks on Romney’s chief weakness, Romneycare.
5. The idea behind Rick Santorum’s candidacy has been that Gingrich will eventually implode but large numbers of Republicans will continue to be resistant to a Romney nomination. When Gingrich won South Carolina, it looked like this theory would never be put to the test. After Florida, it may be.
6. The fact that Romney’s numbers fell so quickly after South Carolina and Gingrich’s have started falling once he got into trouble in Florida tells us that Republican opinion remains volatile. Neither candidate has closed to the deal.
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