Mitt Romney’s huge win tonight in Florida was sufficiently large that it is not possible to interpret it as anything but a stamp of approval from a broad cross-section of Republican voters in a closed primary. Given that by the last week the primary had become a two-man race, it is also impossible to avoid the conclusion that it was a resounding rejection of Newt Gingrich. Gingrich appears likely to take the sore loser scenario in the coming weeks as he attempts to foul the well for the likely nominee by branding him as not just a relative moderate — which is what Romney actually is — but a liberal. Gingrich may be able to convince his large donors to fund a last ditch and probably futile effort to derail the frontrunner. But he is unlikely to persuade most Republicans they are better off with a crippled nominee simply to vent his personal spleen at Romney for having beaten him at his own game with negative ads.
More importantly, the message Gingrich has been given from Florida Republicans is they consider him less electable than Romney.
Exit polls show electability was the most important issue for primary voters. Gingrich claims repeatedly that his debating skills make him the most likely to beat President Obama in the fall but getting spanked twice last week put a period to his claim to being Mr. “Lincoln-Douglas.” Florida confirmed what most Republicans who are not bitterly opposed to Romney already knew: he is the only GOP candidate with a chance to win the wavering Democrats and independents who will decide who is elected president in November.
Gingrich appears to have no strategy to win the nomination. As Florida demonstrated, he has an unlikely chance of winning the general election if he were to be nominated. The only choice left to him is how much damage he wants to do to the only candidate with the ability to beat Obama.