What Florida Means
Our experts weigh in on the result, and the road ahead.

Newt Gingrich addresses his supporters in Orlando following his Florida defeat, January 31, 2012.


By any measure, and using any analytical tool available, it is a blowout win for Mitt Romney.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Team Romney announce that on the strength of Florida’s overwhelming victory, the former Massachusetts governor will be refusing future GOP debate invitations unless and until someone comes within five points of him in an actual election. The rationale is simple: The GOP expects its nominee to be smart and ready to take on the president. A smart presumptive nominee will not continue to give his opponents or the MSM the chance to bleed him in public, or infuse their campaigns with massive amounts of free media and hostile network anchors with opportunities to score points on behalf of the president.

A variation of this approach would be to announce that the February 22 Arizona debate will be the last intramural contest Romney will engage in, unless one of the three remaining candidates can actually best him in a real vote somewhere. Prepping the exit from the endless debate march is a crucial task ahead.

Bottom line in many GOP minds tonight: The Republicans simply cannot win back the White House without Florida reverting red. It is hard to imagine either Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum carrying the state in the fall should lightning strike down the road. 

That said, Santorum has the right to argue that he deserves the one-on-one shot that Newt essentially got in Florida.

I don’t expect either Gingrich or Santorum to quit the race, but neither do I expect Romney to continue to give either of them opportunities to get back in the ring after he so completely dominated the fight tonight in November’s must-win state of Florida. 

Final note: Marco Rubio did an enormous service to Mitt Romney with his two non-endorsement interventions the past few days. Rubio is an absolutely electric presence on the national scene, and his ability to help deliver the Sunshine State in the fall cannot be underestimated

— Hugh Hewitt is host of The Hugh Hewitt Show and author of the 2007 book A Mormon in the White House? 10 Things Every American Should Know about Mitt Romney.