Gingrich says that a victory for him in Florida would be a “knockout punch” to Romney. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush says he will not endorse a candidate. On the other hand, there is speculation about endorsements for Gingrich from Congressman Allen West, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Senator Marco Rubio. None of the three have confirmed that they will endorse someone.
Gingrich hopes that a strong showing in Florida will push Rick Santorum to drop out, which would make him the frontrunner. The latest Gallup poll shows Romney leading nationally with 30%. Gingrich is at 25%, Ron Paul is at 13% and Santorum is at 12%. If Santorum were to withdraw and his supporters go to Gingrich as expected, then Gingrich would be ahead of Romney nationally by 7%.
Romney and Santorum took a much stronger line against Gingrich in interviews on Sunday. Romney is now mentioning the ethics investigation of Gingrich when he was speaker of the House. Santorum describes Gingrich as a “very high-risk candidate.” Santorum is bringing up how House Republicans turned on Gingrich within three years and says he is undisciplined. “We have to have someone who makes Obama the issue in this race, not the Republican nominee,” Santorum said.
Santorum dismisses calls to drop out so that there can be one viable challenger to the right of Romney. He points out that he defeated Romney in Iowa and Gingrich won in South Carolina with a divided field. Santorum is likely counting on Romney and his supporters to use their huge financial advantages to air attack ads in Florida and cripple Gingrich’s lead. When that happened in Iowa, Santorum quickly rose.
Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul need to win 1,144 delegates to officially take the Republican nomination. So far, only 76 have been awarded. Romney leads with 33, followed by Gingrich with 25. Santorum is in third with 14 delegates and Paul has 4.
This race is going to extent a long time, and Romney, Gingrich and Santorum each have realistic paths to victory. The die has been cast for another fiery debate Monday night — now with more at stake than ever.
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