Mitt Romney's likely win in Florida Tuesday is causing attention to shift to the remainder of the GOP presidential calendar and whether there will be an opportunity to derail the former Massachusetts governor's campaign.
Part of that picture will crystallize Tuesday when the presidential campaigns are required to file full financial disclosure reports from the fourth quarter.
Rick Santorum is the only candidate not to have released his fourth-quarter numbers, and a poor showing could intensify calls for the former Pennsylvania senator to exit the campaign. While Santorum is used to threadbare campaigning — a single aide and a pickup truck fueling most of his victorious Iowa effort — a last-place showing in Florida combined with low cash-on-hand could further derail his effort.
Many wondered whether the health of Santorum's daughter, who was hospitalized over the weekend, could also contribute to the former senator exiting the race. But her recovery has been significant enough that Santorum headed back out on the campaign trail Monday, meeting voters in Missouri and Minnesota.
Those two states vote on Feb. 7, but before that will be the Feb. 4 Maine and Nevada caucuses. Both those contests are expected to be relatively easy wins for Romney, who can count on sizable turnout from Mormon voters in Nevada and New England establishment Republicans familiar with his record in Massachusetts.
Romney tried to downplay expectations Monday, noting that Nevada voters are strongly affiliated with the Tea Party — a group he has had difficulty attracting.
"Nevada has a strong Tea Party component that I'd like to connect with and get support from Tea Partiers," Romney told reporters, according to CNN.
Still, anything but a commanding victory in either state would be a major embarrassment. Romney won Nevada with 51 percent and Maine with 52 percent in 2008.
"You're not going to see Mitt Romney go into cruise control after Florida, no matter what happens in Florida," senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told the network.
And despite the built-in lead, Romney will have to spend money in the states. Becaue Nevada, Maine, Minnesota and Colorado — which also votes Feb. 7 — all vote via caucus, rather than primary, Ron Paul is expected to challenge Romney in those states. The Texas congressman hopes his passionate and coordinated fans might deal the seemingly inevitable candidate a surprise and upend the race.
For Gingrich, the calendar is particularly unkind because he failed to qualify for the Missouri primary, the only non-caucus contest until Feb. 28.
If he decides to remain in the race, expect to see Gingrich focus significant effort on the Arizona primary, which is held on the last day of the month. Arizona will also be the site of the only scheduled GOP debate for the month — a forum that has been traditionally kind for Gingrich.
But even an upset win in Arizona for Gingrich would likely be muted by the other primary being held that day — Michigan. Romney's father was a popular governor of the state, and he has a wide advantage in the polls there. Romney won Michigan with 39 percent in 2008 nominating contest.
For Gingrich and the remainder of the Republican field, the challenge will be to remain relevant — and funded — until the Super Tuesday contests on March 6, where the calendar becomes more favorable. Among the 10 primary states voting that day are Gingrich's home state of Georgia and states like Ohio and Tennessee, which provide the opportunity for huge delegate pick-ups. Whichever campaign can endure through the month of February could have the opportunity to capitalize if Romney stumbles.
Gingrich ally and former presidential contender Herman Cain suggested as much during an appearance on Fox News Monday.
"We’ve got Super Tuesday coming up and there’s a very important state that’s on Super Tuesday, Georgia, and so I happen to believe that if he comes in second he keeps on going," Cain said.