Once again the message from the GOP rank and file is stunningly clear-given the choice in the polling booth/caucus they simply don't want Romney to be the nominee.
Even in his "home base" of New Hampshire Romney couldn't get a majority of votes 39% to 36% for the combined conservatives. As it now turns out he lost in Iowa as well.
In South Carolina, the maker of presidents since 1980 he was utterly rejected not only in light of Gingrich beating him by 12 points but the combined non-Romney vote showed a massive 29 point gap.
Not counting Ron Paul's support which is perhaps idiosyncratic-but still a non-Romney vote how he can have been considered the front runner is just ridiculous. He has not done any better in the voting than he did last time and seems to have a ceiling of about 30%.
Worse, if he did get the nomination there is a strong possibility that enough of the base will simply stay home in November to give Obama the victory and even worse, at the same time that would encourage Donald Trump to run as a third party candidate utterly destroying the GOP's chances.
As things stand the way Romney might get the nomination is if the conservative vote is split between Gingrich and Santorum so that Romney piles up plurality after plurality. It seems unlikely that Santorum will improve on his third place showing in the more secular Florida primary.
Thus for the sake of the conservative element he should do a Perry and quietly bow out after seeing the poll results which will show he has no chance. "Take one on the chin for the team" as Palin said of Perry. Santorum is going to Florida as Palin suggested he should.
He owes his supporters the early effort but when the writing on the wall becomes clear he should depart with dignity and endorse Gingrich as, by staying in he may well guarantee Romney the entire slate of delegates as Florida will not be proportional result.