My post last night covered the basics about what happened in Florida, but here are a few add-ons. Romney’s final margin was a bit larger than the exits suggested, coming it at 14.5% (Nate Silver’s projections look mighty good indeed). For people with a mechanical way of looking at things, the fact that Romney’s vote slightly exceeded the combined vote of Gingrich and Santorum is significant. Turnout in Florida was down from 2008, as was the case in Mitt’s last victory in NH.
Now, of course, begins the crucial period of post-primary spin in which the candidates try to impose a favorable interpretation on what happened and what, if anything, it means going forward. It’s a particularly crucial moment for Newt Gingrich, who must convince the news media, party elites, Tea Party activists in states with upcoming contests, and a certain audience of one in Las Vegas (financial sugar daddy Sheldon Adelson) that he still has a chance.
Over at TNR, I have a column up making the case that Newt is a “zombie candidate” who is basically wasting his and everybody else’s time. But I have no idea if this sort of logic will be compelling to Gingrich, a man who sees Winston Churchill in the bathroom mirror each morning, or to his key backers. And there is certainly an argument to be made that in an electoral cycle as strange as this one has already been, nobody can be blamed for sticking around and seeing if something else weird is just around the corner.
I’ll have some more analytical thoughts about the Florida results in a bit.