It couldn't be simpler-no matter what happens in South Carolina, and I presume Gingrich will pick up a proportion of the delegates, Florida is the make or break for the nomination. If the Gingrich/Santorum split is allowed to continue, by the Santorum voters in this case, then Romney is the nominee.
If Gingrich wins he shoots right to the top in the delegate count and has momentum, and subsequently the crucial finance, going forwards.This is the moment when principles must transcend loyalty to a candidate for Santorum voters unless they, by voting for Rick, want Romney as the nominee.
Rick Santorum couldn't continue his Iowa showing in New Hampshire and looks to finish fifth there. Once again, as in 2008, the split amongst the conservative candidates is allowing the non-conservative to win on a low percentage of the overall vote. Romney "won" (or possibly not) in Iowa with 25% and 39% in his eastern stronghold of New Hampshire.
That means of course that 75% of Iowa voters and 61% of New Hampshire voters don't want Mitt. Neither do 63% of all Republican voters according to Real Clear Politics accumulation polling. If Santorum (and Perry for that matter) stay in for the South Carolina primary they will give Romney every chance of "winning" the state on less than 40% of the vote.
If that happens the media chorus of "electability" will crown Romney as the nominee even though too date, and under the proportional system now in place he has a grand total of 7 delegates out of the 1144 (of 2286 total) delegates required for the nomination.
Even in liberal new Hampshire the percentage for Gingrich and Santorum/perry was 20%. If there had been a single conservative candidate the impression of "electability" would have been higher which might have persuaded some more voters to have supported a single conservative and a very respectable second place could have been obtained. the momentum form that would have surely propelled that person to a substantial win in South Carolina.
As things stand if Santorum, who surely will not win in South Carolina stays in, and Perry to a lesser degree they stand the strong possibility of handing the state to a non-conservative. the result of that would probably be a repeat of the 2008 general election result. Why would any Santorum supporter wish that to happen?
If Santorum is still keen on running,why raises itself immediately, then the matter rests on the hands of Santorum supporters. They can vote for him in quixotic quest for who knows what ( a VP placing?) or vote for Gingrich and keep the battle alive-the ball, the fate of the party and the November election is in their hands.
It may be by that by his supporters helping to defeat Romney in South Carolina Santorum can live to fight again. If they don't it may be all over for Gingrich and Santorum.
Why Santorum voters should support Gingrich and not the other way round (plus Gingrich has just received $5 million in campaign funds) is indicated in the latest SC poll.
Gingrich is in second place nationally. Gingrich/Santorum leads Romney
Before Santorum's Iowa result it was Gingrich 17% Santorum 3% in New Hampshire. They ended up splitting their combined 20% to the detriment of Gingrich and no benefit to Santorum