Will Mitt Romney’s decisive Florida victory return sanity to the Republicans? One of the characteristics of the 2012 race so far is that Republicans are acting more like Democrats in their messy lack of discipline and in their putting self before party.

The Republicans used to follow an unwritten rule of “first in line” for the nomination. In other words, candidates usually had to go through one or two election cycles to finally get the party nod: Reagan, Bush 1, Dole and McCain all fit the tradition. This rule meant that party elders and voters would coalesce around a preanointed favorite, conserving resources for the fall campaign.

Now we will see whether Romney benefits from this tradition. He certainly fits the bill; he ran before and worked hard in the interim to support Republican candidates and raise money. But so far the early smoke signals coming out of Florida are not encouraging. Newt Gingrich is vowing to stay in the race as the only true conservative left, while Rick Santorum has launched a television buy claiming that mantle for himself. Could this race go on and on with Republicans continuing to misbehave?

Democrats can only hope.