8 p.m. ET on CNN, it’s Gingrich’s last chance to stop what suddenly looks like a Romney coronation in the last big early-state primary. What can he do here to regain the big Mo? Call Wolf Blitzer a communist, maybe? Or, as a Twitter buddy suggested today, extend his demand for seven three-hour Lincoln/Douglas debates with Obama to eight debates of four hours? The audience will be allowed to cheer and applaud tonight so thankfully this game show will once again have the proper tone. Take a lesson, NBC.

Newt’s going to hit three key themes, I think. One: According to Nancy Reagan herself, the Gipper passed the torch to him. According to Reagan’s own son, “I would take Newt Gingrich’s record any day over Mitt Romney’s.” That’s proof enough of who the real conservative in the race is, in case Romney’s endless metamorphoses hadn’t convinced you. Two: Romney’s a shady one-percenter whose Cayman investments and Swiss bank accounts leave him dead on arrival against Obama in the fall. Fundamentally that’s an electability pitch, but by tying it to Mitt’s Fannie/Freddie mutual fund investments, he can leverage some class resentment out of it too. Three, and maybe most importantly: The race is no longer Gingrich against Romney but rather Gingrich against “the establishment.” Rage against the machine:

Mr. Gingrich attempted to use those attacks to fuel his image as an outsider.

“Remember,” he told several hundred people standing beside a lake here, “the Republican establishment is just as much an establishment as the Democratic establishment, and they are just as determined to stop us. Make no bones about it. This is a campaign for the very nature of the Republican party.

A few hours ago, his campaign blasted out an e-mail titled, “300 Tea Party Organizations in 36 States Vow to Campaign for Gingrich.” Said Jonah Goldberg this morning, “Irony of Newt: 6 months ago it was absurd to call him an outsider. But now that the insiders have thrown him out, he is one.” That’s the point Newt wants to hit to mobilize grassroots conservatives in Florida, obviously — that if they’re tired of milquetoast Republican leadership and their media enablers, Tuesday is their absolute last chance to stop it. More from Politico on the “tea party vs. cocktail party” state of the race:

Tampa attorney Paul Phillips illustrates the gap. He came to Romney’s Tuesday morning State of the Union pre-buttal dressed for a business meeting, sporting a blue pinstriped suit and a smart polka-dot tie.

“I’m an educated elitist,” Phillips said before Romney spoke in a warehouse that has closed during the economic recession. “I mean seriously, I don’t view the tea party with a very good light. Most of them quote the Constitution and don’t understand it. It’s pretty scary, actually.”…

[A] Romney adviser was more derisive of the Anybody But Mitt Republicans.

“They like preachers,” the adviser said of the tea party demographic. “If you take them to a tent meeting they’ll get whipped into a frenzy. That’s how people like Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich get women to fall into bed with them.”

Romney’s strategy tonight, I assume, will be to keep pounding Gingrich on Freddie Mac and — if he’s daring, which he almost never is — on his big plans for spending billions to build condos on the moon or whatever. Santorum offered a nice fiscally conservative critique of that today, so presumably Romney will leave it to him; Santorum can afford to alienate Florida’s space industry given his standing in the polls but Romney can’t. I think Mitt will probably concentrate on attacking Gingrich’s electability, which is, after all, the crux of the establishment argument against him. Having failed to advance any compelling reasons to nominate himself, Romney’s going to try to turn the race into Newt vs. Not Newt. That’s what he’s left with after years of organizing and raising money to promote his “vision.”

I’m rooting for Newt tonight only because the dream of a late entrant dies if Romney wins Florida. Granted, it’s mostly dead anyway, but it’s really dead if Mitt’s the last man standing next week. Jay Cost wonders what if:

Somebody else – somebody with the ability to make the case for reform in a sober and courageous manner – should jump into this race. And not just to keep Obama from a second term. If 2012 is a decisive election – then we need a candidate with the courage and rectitude to make the choice clear to the voters, so that once in office he has the mandate to fix this mess.

Daniels could be that candidate. While he could not win an outright majority of delegates because of the passing of too many filing deadlines, he could do what Bobby Kennedy attempted in 1968: get in late, do well in the latter contests, win some big states, and make the case that, early primaries aside, he is the true choice of the party, the one who could unify everybody around a common cause. If nobody has won a majority of delegates by June, that could very well be enough for a dark horse victory for Daniels.

I’m convinced that Daniels wouldn’t do as well as the commentariat thinks, especially with pieces like this floating around out there, but Gingrich and Romney are terribly flawed candidates. It’d be nice to have at least one serious contender in the race who isn’t.

You’ll find the nifty Hot Air/Townhall livetweet widget below. To get you in the mood for the final battle between The Establishment and The People, via Mediaite here’s Romney fan Ann Coulter with Glenn Beck today unloading on Gingrich yet again. Newt is fired and up ready for the fight. Is Romney? Exit quotation: “‘I can’t wait. It’s going to be fun again, you know that,’ he added, unconvincingly.”


Update: Brand new numbers from NBC and the WSJ. Newt leads Mitt 37/28 nationally thanks to strong support from tea partiers and southerners. That’s the good news; the bad news is … pretty bad.

Romney fares best against the president, trailing Obama him by six points among registered voters, 49 percent to 43 percent. That’s a four-point improvement for the president from a month ago.

Obama, however, beats Gingrich by a whopping 18 points, 55-37 percent, expanding the president’s 11-point lead a month ago…

Gingrich particularly struggles with women and independents. Women say they would vote for Obama over Gingrich by a wide 69-21 percent gap, far wider than the 54-38 percent difference by which Obama beats Romney.

With independents, Gingrich gets just 28 percent against Obama, who wins with 52 percent. By contrast, Obama narrowly edges Romney with independents, 44 percent to 36 percent.

I wonder which of them will mention this poll first tonight.