Four hours until tonight’s GOP debate on CNN, the final debate before voting Tuesday for Florida’s winner-take-all primary. With a whopping 50 delegates up for grabs, a victory by Mitt Romney would nearly doom the Newt Gingrich candidacy.
Mr. Romney leads by 6-8 points in all the current polls, a dramatic shift from just a few days ago. Mr. Gingrich’s mediocre debate performance Monday night suggests the most likely reason for the shift. He is in the underdog position of having to score a near-knockout punch every time he and Mr. Romney enter the ring. A performance far short of that will not cut it. When attacked Monday, Mr. Gingrich tried the rise-above-it frontrunner approach, and it did him no favors. He must stay in attack mode without cease, or he will go down.
Newt Gingrich’s numbers in the prediction markets have plummeted in the past four days. From a peak of 30 percent (predicted to win the Republican primary) on Jan. 23, the day of the last debate, his likelihood to win the primary has dropped to 10 percent.
Those numbers – and the polls – undergo sudden shifts in this quirky primary, and a solid debate performance tonight could give Mr. Gingrich the uptick he needs to pull off the necessary upset in Florida. The audience will be geared up to make some noise, if for no other reason just to show those dang lib’ral moderators they can’t tell US what to do – and the bombastic Speaker has presumably prepared a number of blood-soaked quips to toss to the crowd.
If Mr. Romney plays the above-the-fray frontrunner, he leaves himself open for a desperate Newt-ron Bomb or two. It should be good. We are ready to rumble. We have snacks. They are not particularly Newt-ricious.