Well, the Gingrich bubble has burst. I'd say "I don't like to say I told you so," but that would be a lie. I love to say I told you so. In fact it might be my single most favoritest thing in the whole world. Which says a lot about why I'm almost forty and alone. But that's neither here nor there. The fact remains: I told you so.
Seriously, though, I have to say I was more than a little surprised at how quick the media, and even Kossacks, were to buy into the Anti-Romney Flavor of the Month.
And now, here we are at the end. Well, at the end of the beginning, anyway. And Mitt Romney looks poised to either win or come in a strong second to the irrelevant Ron Paul in the Iowa Caucus. Either will be spun as a win. And Newt Gingrich? He'll be lucky to come in fourth. His moment as the Antimitt has passed, but who knows? Maybe Rick Santorum will have a turn. But it's probably too little, to late. Santorum's not ready for prime time, anyway. Let's face it, the last time he was in a national spotlight campaign he got his ass handed to him. That's not a path to the White House.
No, the Republican nominee is gonna be who it was always gonna be: Mitt Romney. He's kissed all the right rings, made all the right promises to the right people. The former businessman closed the deal. Mitt Romney is nothing if not proof that while evangelicals are the Republican rank and file, it's Wall Street that really calls the shots. GOP = God & One Percenters. And the wealthy triumph over the Creator of the Universe.
Here's what I see in my crystal ball:
• Mitt Romney wins or comes in a close second to Ron Paul in Iowa. Either way, the media reports it as a victory.
• Gingrich skips New Hampshire, where Romney is expected to trounce all comers (which he will do) and decamps to South Carolina.
• Here is where it gets interesting. Does Romney essentially skip over South Carolina, which he is unlikely to win, or does he take Gingrich on there, hammering away at him in hopes of affecting the upcoming Florida vote? Or does he leapfrog SC and go right to the Sunshine State? Either course has its appeal. My guess is that it will depend on the polls. If momentum from Iowa and New Hampshire bolsters Romney's numbers in South Carolina, he might just try to fight for it. If he looks like he stands a decent shot of at least coming in a strong second, I bet he goes for it. Either way, the spirits tell me Gingrich will win in South Carolina, bringing the fight to...
• Florida. This is it, make or break time for the Gingrich campaign. After this come a string of Romney-friendly states until Super Tuesday in March. A win here is Gingrich's best argument for continued viability. If Romney beats him here, it's over. Expect Florida to be hard fought on all sides. If I had to call I'd bet that Romney's money wins the day. If so, it's hard to see how anyone has a realistic shot of stopping him.
Bottom line: There are lots of ways for Romney to win this, but there is really only one way for Gingrich to do so, and it would require such a confluence of circumstances (an unexpectedly strong showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, for example) that the likelihood is essentially nil. Ron Paul's a sideshow, Bachmann's a freakshow, and the rest are no-shows. As long as Romney doesn't make some disastrous misstep it's hard to see how anyone else is the nominee.
It is as it always was. The outcome of the Republican nominating race has been preordained since it was clear no other A-listers were running this time around. Rick Perry had the one realistic chance of stopping Romney, but then he opened his mouth. The Gingrich thing had a lot of people in the Romney camp spooked, but it too proved to be fleeting. Why this should surprise anyone is puzzling.
I mean, I did tell you so.