Newt Gingrich suffered a setback Tuesday night in Florida, not only losing to Mitt Romney but doing so in dramatic fashion.
Gingrich, however, insists that he's not going anywhere and intends to compete in every remaining state on the way to the Republican Convention this summer. In fact, when he conceded the Florida election Tuesday night, he did so from a podium that said "46 States to Go."
In his speech, Gingrich declared that Florida, when coupled with his victory in South Carolina proved that the election would be a two-man race to the finish, effectively encouraging Rick Santorum to drop out of the race, so conservatives voters would coalesce behind Gingrich.
"It is now clear that this will be a two-person race between the conservative leader, Newt Gingrich, and the Massachusetts moderate," Gingrich said.
Gingrich refused to utter Romney's name during his speech and never congratulated Romney on his victory. Nor did he call and congratulate the former Massachusetts governor.
Ron Christie, Republican political strategist, said Gingrich has a very slim chance of topping Romney.
"He looks like Captain Ahab, chasing around the whale of Mitt Romney," Christie said. "It's taken on somewhat of a perverse, personal crusade to bring Romney down, rather than try to prevail and win in the Republican contest."
Christie said this looks more like a personal crusade than an electoral contest.
Steffen Schmidt, professor of Political Science at Iowa State University, said this will be a long contest to get the almost 1200 delegates needed to capture the Republican nomination. At this point, Romney has just 84.
Gingrich has a chance to continue struggling against Romney, because he represents the wing of the party that doesn't care for Romney.
"That still looks like more than 50 percent, because in Florida, Romney got 46 percent of the vote — not 55 or 60," Schmidt said.
If Gingrich faces a major obstacle, it's that he's not particularly well-funded. In the latest campaign finance report he revealed he has some $600,000 available in the bank. He has about $1.2 million in debt.
"There are a couple of contests coming up this weekend, in Maine and Nevada, that he can certainly try to convince the electorate that he's the viable candidate and they should give him money," Christie said. "But if he doesn't place well this weekend, I don't see financially and from an organizational standpoint how much longer he can prevail in those contests."
On the other hand, Schmidt said, the media likes having Gingrich around — and will happily give him the sort of free media that money couldn't ever buy.
"I think you're going to see this go on with four people, slogging along. Yes, of course Mitt Romney has a lot of money and has a big advantage that way, but I wouldn't discount the anger of the Tea Party and the others who really don't like Mitt Romney at all and are looking for someone else," Schmidt said.
Christie said Gingrich's support falls in two categories: those who are voting for "Anyone but Mitt Romney" and those who want a viable conservative candidate in the race. Unfortunately for Gingrich, Christie said, there's not state that appeals to those demographics especially well until March 7.
"I don't see where he pulls one out," Christie said. "The only time you see those really strong Tea Party states is the March 7th primary, where you might have people throwing their ballots toward him in Alaska, Georgia or Idaho."
Schmidt, though, said he thinks Gingrich can lay low for the next month, rebuild a base of volunteers and be ready for the Super Tuesday elections and a comeback — potentially.
"We've written him off twice before. This would be his third resurrection and I wouldn't put it past him because I think ... this is Newt wanting to take down Mitt Romney at any cost, no matter how many cheap motels he has to stay at or even if he has to dip into his own money," Gingrich said.