If Gingrich dropped out
Rick Santorum did better last night than polling expected, winning the primaries in both Alabama and Mississippi. In only one of eight polls on Nate Silver’s blog was Santorum ahead in Alabama. Between them, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were expected to win these, where a sweep for one candidate or a split between them. Although Gingrich has had a poor campaign, his political base since 1979 has been in nearby Georgia, which he won on Tuesday, 6 March.
In the end, the results were:
Alabama: Santorum 35%, Gingrich 29%, Romney 29%, Paul 5%
Mississippi: Santorum 33%, Gingrich 31%, Romney 30%, Paul 4%
Now the tally between the states stand at 15–9–2 to Romney–Santorum–Gingrich. Romney has neither a convincing enough lead nor the momentum to to force the others out, so will muddle on.
Had Gingrich dropped out two weeks ago, we could have been looking at a 14–10–1 split instead; this assumes that most Gingrich voters would have voted for Santorum in Ohio, which Romney won by less than 1%, and in Georgia.
We’re looking at a similar situation now. The next state up is Illinois, this coming Tuesday, and the latest polling shows Romney 35%, Santorum 31%, Gingrich 12% and Ron Paul 7%. New Gingrich is talking more about stopping Mitt Romney and less about becoming the next president of the United States. But he still intends to carry on to the Republican National Convention Tampa, Florida on 27–30 August.
If Gingrich did pull out, and Illinois Republicans voted for Santorum, Romney would be seriously damaged. Still more likely to be the nominee, but less likely than he is right now. It would be a one-on-one race between Santorum and Romney (with Paul picking up votes that would probably not otherwise go to either in the primaries). But with Gingrich’s sense of self-worth, seeing votes come in for his name as a candidate for president probably means more to Newt than damaging Romney’s chances. As it is, he serves simply as a spoiler for Romney.