Four down, 46 to go. That is the number Newt Gingrich is emphasizing in the wake of his Florida defeat. Others are pointing to the 1,057 delegates still unpledged. All of this is true.
It is equally true that Gingrich’s task became much more difficult tonight. The momentum from South Carolina is gone. The next major contests are in Nevada, Arizona, and Michigan. All of those states would have favored Mitt Romney even without a large Florida bounce. Some of them are caucuses, where Gingrich’s organizational deficiencies will be magnified.
Newt could go the entire month of Feburary without winning a primary or caucus. That would bring him to Super Tuesday, when he will have to compete with Romney’s finances and get-out-the-vote operation in multiple states at once. Gingrich has in effect admitted that he couldn’t keep up with Romney’s money or ground game in just one state, Florida.
Gingrich will still be favored in three Southern states on Super Tuesday. But his path to the nomination has become precarious and righting the ship will require more discipline than Newt has shown so far.