But even if he should string together a series of wins in Dixie, the former House speaker increasingly appears consigned to Huckabee’s fate, in which a handful of midseason victories does more to reinforce the candidate’s narrow appeal among cultural conservatives than to spark a comeback.

Gingrich may face even longer odds than Huckabee did, though. When the former Arkansas governor enjoyed his “dead cat bounce,” winning four Southern states on Super Tuesday, he was facing off against John McCain and Mitt Romney, two candidates who evoked considerable skepticism among grass-roots conservatives. Gingrich’s bid to come back is severely complicated by the presence of Rick Santorum, a movement conservative who will appeal to many of the religious conservatives the former speaker needs to overtake Romney.

“It’s just not open field running between Mitt and the anti-Mitt,” observed Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), an unaligned member of the House GOP leadership…

The new proportional rules Gingrich often holds up to argue that the race will go the distance could work against him in the South. With delegates being distributed according to vote percentage rather than winner take all, the former Georgia congressman can’t count on a regional bloc of support vaulting him back into contention. Even if he wins in states like Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Oklahoma next month, he’ll still have to share some of the delegates.