Romney did well on Tuesday; not well enough but well. Santorum stayed in the race but he did not do as well as he would have liked either. Gingrich is still fighting and we may now be entering Gingrich time.
Today’s delegate count shows Romney with 415, Santorum with 176, Gingrich with 105, and Paul with 47. Needing 1144 delegates to be nominated, while the projection clearly suggests a Romney win, the contest is likely to tighten between now and April 24 before Romney could make a breakout. For Romney there lies the problem; for Santorum, the opportunity; and for Gingrich only devilish trouble.
The rest of the month of March is really slow time for the Republican primary-caucus race. For Romney that is good because he can spend time raising money and preparing for the last big haul and then the real season. For Romney that also is bad because he likely will be losing small states and for many Republicans not winning—rather than a growing delegate count–is seen as a negative and not a positive.
It is precisely the reverse for Santorum as well as for Gingrich. Even though the delegate count is small (317 total), they are likely to carry most of the southern and mid-western states whose contests are coming up over the next several weeks: March 10 is Kansas; March13 is Alabama, Mississippi, and Hawaii (caucus); March 17 is Missouri (caucus); March 20 is Illinois; and March 24 is Louisiana.
The problem for Romney personally as well, is that he has developed as much public excitement in his campaign as President Bush senior did on a bad day; and Bush 41 did not exactly fire up the troops on a good day! Baring a brokered convention, this is leading to a plodding successful win in Tampa by Romney, which may be precisely what the Republican Party did not want when this campaign season began months ago.
Meanwhile the White House watches and prays the economy continues its current trajectory, employment numbers steadily grow, and gasoline prices do no totally destroy the gingerly improving positive picture.