He’s at 50 percent in Florida and nationally, among likely voters, enjoys a 20-point lead on Romney. He’s not blowing smoke here. If he doesn’t stumble this month and Cain drops out, it’s absolutely possible that he’ll run the table in the early states. Unlike in other years, that itself won’t cinch the nomination — Romney’s got the cash and organization to press on, and there’ll be time before Super Tuesday for Newt to cool off — but still.

I feel like Pascow in “Pet Sematary,” pleading with Dr. Creed not to let his desperation drive him to something terrible. You don’t have to nominate Newt. You don’t have to do this, Louis.

TAPPER: “How do you respond to Republicans who say if you don’t draw distinctions with Mitt Romney and others who are attacking you, if you don’t point out their perceived vulnerabilities, Barack Obama and the Democrats sure aren’t going to share that same reluctance and you are doing Obama a favor by staying positive?”

GINGRICH: “They are not going to be the nominee. I don’t have to go around and point out the inconsistencies of people who are not going to be the nominee. They are not going to be the nominee.”

TAPPER: “You are going to be the nominee?”

GINGRICH: “I’m going to be the nominee. It’s very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I’m going to be the nominee. And by the way I don’t object if people want to attack me, that’s their right. All I’m suggesting that it’s not going to be very effective and that people are going to get sick of it very fast. And the guys who attacked each other in the debates up to now, every single one of them have lost ground by attacking. So they should do what they and their consultants want to do. I will focus on being substantive and I will focus on Barack Obama.”

Tapper’s referring to a story in RCP today about Newt telling his team not to go negative, no matter how nasty Romney et al. get. (Why would Gingrich need to attack Romney when Huntsman is doing such a good job of it?) That was Romney’s strategy until now, of course: Take an above-it-all approach when you’re being attacked to seem more presidential and train your fire on Obama to endear yourself to the base. But he can’t sit back and wait for Gingrich to implode because Iowa’s too close and Newt is too polished a candidate, so suddenly he’s scrambling to push old stuff that’s already priced into Gingrich’s stock — touting his own marriage to draw an implicit contrast with Newt’s personal life for social cons and criticizing him for being a career politician, etc. He’s even got Chris Christie playing attack dog for him on the latter point, reminding reporters that Gingrich has “never run anything.” Does the first Republican House in 40 years count as “anything”? Good lord. No wonder Romney seems so testy lately. He’s a desperate man.

If we’re really going to do this, can we at least first have a semi-competitive primary between Newt and a more conservative candidate? Perry’s still out there, you know, hangin’ around at five percent for a big hug from the base. All you have to do is wish it to make it so! Or have we already decided that Newt is a “Very Strong Conservative” because he’s the new Not Romney and that’s just the way it is? Exit question: Second look at a brokered convention?