I thought this whole thing was over when Romney won New Hampshire, but I didn’t realize how persistent the party’s conservative wing would be in demanding an alternative. Nor did I forsee that the fight between Romney and Gingrich would become personal -- or that the race would begin to look like a battle for the party’s soul.

Gingrich, elected to Congress from Georgia, has now won in South Carolina and in the Florida panhandle counties that are more like Georgia or Alabama than like South Beach. The Republican Party’s conservative base is in the South. If voters in the GOP heartland continue to prefer Gingrich’s version of Republicanism to Romney’s, we’re going to have to keep meeting like this for some time.

More opinions on the Florida primary

Rogers: Romney needs to heal GOP wounds

Stromberg: Will Santorum surge?

Dionne: Who resisted Romney?

Bernstein: What the blowout means

Rubin’s Gingrich’s graceless speech