Newt Gingrich has been trying to convince voters that he is the sole conservative alternative to Romney. While it's quite debatable how conservative Gingrich actually is, his hubris in commanding Santorum to drop out has come back to bite him. While beauty contest votes with no delegates aren't that significant when it comes to the real purpose of primary and caucus votes, they do help craft a storyline. And the storyline from yesterday's victories for Rick Santorum clearly is that Rick Santorum has emerged as the alternative to Mitt Romney. Although, as Jim Geraghty points out, the turnout is still down from 2008, Santorum has shown that his teeny win in Iowa was no fluke. And his victory in Missouri demonstrates that, if Gingrich isn't in the race, he can beat Romney head-on.
Gingrich has tried to make people ignore Rick Santorum and think of the race as a Gingrich-Romney battle. But if his goal really is to have the Republicans nominate a true conservative instead of a "Massachusetts Moderate," then Gingrich should be the one to drop out.
But Gingrich's pugnacious campaign has always been all about him. And so don't expect him to bow out now that the argument he has tried to make that it should be a two-man race so that Romney's opposition isn't divided has come back to bite him.