After all the votes were finally tallied, Rick Santorum came away with a small-margin victory in Iowa. As expected given the amount of time and money he invested there, Mitt Romney won by decent margin in New Hampshire. But then South Carolina happened, and suddenly Newt Gingrich not only has a primary victory of his own but he has the most delegates out of the four remaining candidates.
Now, heading into Florida, polling says Gingrich has the lead there:
The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Florida Republican Primary Voters, taken Sunday evening, finds Gingrich earning 41% of the vote with Romney in second at 32%. Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum runs third with 11%, while Texas Congressman Ron Paul attracts support from eight percent (8%). Nine percent (9%) remain undecided. …
One-in-three (32%) say they still could change their minds before they vote in the January 31 primary. Another nine percent (9%) have no initial preference yet. Fifty-nine percent (59%) are already certain of their vote, including 73% of Romney supporters and 62% of Gingrich voters.
The one bright spot for Romney is that he has an 11% lead among poll respondents who say they already voted in the primary via early voting. But that’s cold comfort given that turnout is only 14% so far in early voting, and that Gingrich has a 12 point lead among those who say they haven’t voted yet:
Florida allows early voting, and Romney leads among those voters by 11 points. Gingrich leads by 12 among those who have not yet voted. Fourteen percent (14%) have already cast their vote.
I’ve been morose in recent weeks, seeing Mitt “Romneycare” Romney as the inevitable nominee. I couldn’t imagine someone who called a government mandate for buying health insurance a fundamental conservative value being the GOP candidate, but perhaps my cynicism was premature.
Which isn’t to say that Newt Gingrich, who talks a good game on conservatism but is far less consistent in practice, is an ideal candidate. He’s got a lot of baggage, and I don’t just mean in his personal life, but I’ll feel a little better about this process if the ultimate nominee isn’t someone who was the godfather of Obamacare.