In no particular order, my takeaways from tonight’s results.1. Going into tonight the idea was that Romney could come in first, second or maybe even third and still ‘win’. There was a decent logic to that. But as I hear the conventional wisdom taking shape, the result in practice (which could still quite likely be a numerical victory for Romney) seems considerably worse for Romney than one might have expected. It feels like a significant setback. In the big picture, still very hard to see how someone else gets the nomination. But a tie for first, which seemed like it would be still pretty good for Romney, doesn’t look so good in the event.
2. Given the above, the entire Republican establishment is going to be coming out in the next couple days to shut this down and say it’s Romney. We already have news that John McCain will travel to New Hampshire tomorrow to endorse Romney. The avalanche of attempted GOP establishment coronation will be one of the big things to watch over the coming days. Can they pull it off? Probably so. But now it’s from a footing of relative weakness.
3. Newt Gingrich. Newt looked tired tonight. He looked all of his 68 years. But through that he’s mad. And Newt Gingrich has a great capacity for anger. He says he’s going to keep fighting for the nomination. And at some level I buy that. But what seemed much more clear is that he has a new goal in this campaign, maybe in life: hurt Mitt Romney. That’s dangerous for Romney. There are more debates coming. Newt’s good at debates. And reporters love drama. That’s hazardous for Romney.