The Alabama and Mississippi primaries were razor close, but there were winners and losers. The delegate rules may not be winner-take-all, but applause from the media and momentum almost always are.
Rick Santorum needed to win, and he did. He has a ticket to the convention in Tampa and certainly can look forward to more wins in the next few weeks. His victories mean social issues are alive and well in the GOP contest, and that means the press will amplify and overanalyze the meaning of his victories.
Newt Gingrich lost the only chance he had at creating a rationale for his candidacy. Gingrich is a great rationalizer, so it will be interesting to see how he explains his current circumstances. Unless he admits he is staying in the race to help Romney, there is no point to his campaign.
Two weeks ago it would have been safe to bet a "full Romney" ($10,000) that the former Massachusetts governor wouldn’t win in either Deep South state. But he made a substantial effort and raised expectations. This could be the biggest regret of his campaign so far.
Is Romney still the inevitable nominee? If you accept a narrow reading of the delegate math, the answer is probably. But if you assume something unexpected will happen and apply the maxim that bad gets worse, Romney will look weaker than ever by this Sunday's talk shows.
It's not over until it's over. And it's not over.