Fresh off a weekend in which he scored two highly important endorsements — an outright endorsement from former competitor Herman Cain and another pseudo-endorsement from Sarah Palin — Newt Gingrich nevertheless trails Mitt Romney in the Florida polls. Gingrich’s likely second-place finish might not be what he hoped for after his decisive victory in South Carolina, but neither will it substantively change the overall shape of the race. Except for a brief few days last week, Romney was always expected to win Florida — and the other candidates will have plenty of chances for first-place finishes in future states. In other words, the order in Florida tomorrow — no matter what it is — probably won’t be too determinative for any of the candidates. At this point, they all plan to continue to campaign regardless.
In part, that’s because they’ve all done a decent job of managing expectations when it comes to this primary. For example, Herman Cain today explained why Gingrich could even consider second place in Florida an overall “win” for his campaign.
“My expectation isn’t necessarily that he will win because of the sheer difference in spending. But my expectation is that he is going to have a much stronger showing than the weekend polls have been showing. There was one last night that showed that Gingrich is a lot closer to Romney,” Cain said during an interview with Fox News. “So this thing is so dynamic, we won’t know until the votes are counted tomorrow night in Florida.”
Cain said that considering the circumstances, he would consider a second-place finish a “win” in the Florida primary – and reiterated Gingrich’s pledge to carry forward past Florida.
“If he finishes second, I would consider that a win because next he goes to Nevada, Maine and we’ve got Super Tuesday coming up and there’s a very important state that’s on Super Tuesday, Georgia, and so I happen to believe that if he comes in second he keeps on going,” Cain said.
Romney has, indeed, outspent Gingrich in the Sunshine State, and money matters even more in a large state like Florida than it does in smaller states. The Romney campaign says the former Massachusetts governor leads Gingrich because he outperformed him at the two most recent GOP debates — and it’s true the polls tipped back in Romney’s favor after the debates — but it’s still hard to believe all that anti-Gingrich spending has nothing to do with his comfortable lead in Florida.
Meanwhile, Gingrich leads in one survey of Florida voters: Today, Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots announced that Gingrich leads her organization’s Tea Party Straw Poll in Florida with 35 percent of the vote.