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Post Partisan
Posted at 03:13 PM ET, 02/01/2012

Following the Florida primary, death watch on Gingrich, Santorum campaigns


The Post pundits’ crystal ball was pretty clear on Tuesday, with all our prognosticators correctly predicting the final order of the candidates in Florida’s GOP primary: Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul. But thoughts varied on whether Gingrich, Paul and Santorum would all stick in the contest after Florida, despite a developing consensus among observers that Romney will eventually take the Republican nomination.

Speeches from both Gingrich and Santorum Tuesday night indicated they were determined to fight on, as did Santorum’s venue — in Henderson, Nev., a state in which there will be GOP caucuses this Saturday. Yet, as with beginning a presidential run, candidates usually don’t talk about about dropping out until they do, which means that the press will be on campaign death watch in the coming days and weeks. Presuming Romney doesn’t dramatically implode, how long will we have to wait?

Jonathan Bernstein, E.J. Dionne, James Downie and David Ignatius predicted that Santorum will drop out “sooner rather than later,” perhaps in a matter of days, a la Jon Huntsman after the New Hampshire primary.

Kathleen Parker argued that Santorum will stay in through the Missouri and Minnesota caucuses, on Feb. 7, and possibly until the Feb. 9-11 Conservative Political Action Conference. I also predicted Santorum would see through some of the February contests, without much success.

Jennifer Rubin indicated that Santorum might stick in the race through the month of February, possibly obtaining the support of hardcore conservatives dissatisfied with Gingrich. Marc Thiessen concurred, arguing that Santorum will attempt to claim the conservative mantle from Newt and extend his campaign.

There was more agreement among the pundits that Gingrich will stay in the race for now, particularly because the former House speaker has some cash and, as Parker pointed out, a billionaire casino mogul willing to donate millions to his super PAC. Downie predicted that Gingrich will stay in through at least the next debate on Feb. 22, to see if he can produce some of the on-stage fire he breathed in South Carolina. Bernstein said that Gingrich will stick around until Super Tuesday on March 6.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, however, argued that Gingrich is also “emotionally volatile” and “seems to relish campaigning only when he has the wind at his back.” Perhaps he’ll drop out sooner than most of us pundits think. Surely — and you won’t read this sentence very often — plenty of establishment Republicans hope vanden Heuvel is right.

By  |  03:13 PM ET, 02/01/2012

 
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