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Will GOP step in to prevent a Newt Gingrich nomination?

Newt Gingrich is surging. Mitt Romney, though, is still considered the front-runner. A drawn-out race means a growing possibility of a brokered convention, where party elites choose the nominee.

By Staff Writer / January 24, 2012

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, gestures to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich during a Republican presidential debate Monday at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla.

Paul Sancya/AP

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Newt Gingrich is surging – but the GOP establishment still opposes him (and many believe he is unelectable).

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Mitt Romney is still the presumed front-runner and has a big lead on money, organization, and endorsement from key Republicans, but he just lost a massive lead in Florida seemingly overnight. State and national polls show a swing against Mr. Romney of more than 20 points.

More than ever, the 2012 nominating process is confounding pundits and proving unpredictable. It's unlikely that any candidate will wrap up the nomination quickly, and now buzz – which has been present for some time – is increasing about the possibility of a brokered convention and even a late-entrant candidate.

In the past week, influential conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh and Joe Scarborough, have discussed the growing rumblings. According to Mr. LImbaugh, many in the Republican party are welcoming Gingrich's resurgence, not because they like him as a candidate but because they have misgivings about Romney. They want the race to continue all the way to the convention in Tampa, Fla., so that the party elite can pick the nominee there.

Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey (R) of Texas predicted a brokered convention on CNBC Monday night, and Michael Steele, the former national chairman of the Republican party, recently put the chances of a brokered convention at 50-50. "The base wants its chance to have their say," he told the The Huffington Post. "They aren't going to want it to end early, before they get their chance, which means that the process could go all the way to Tampa."

And several other notable conservatives, including Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post and William Kristol at the Weekly Standard have been making pleas - hardly new, but now they seem to have an added urgency – for someone like Mitch Daniels, the Indiana governor who will deliver the GOP rebuttal to the State of the Union address Tuesday night, to enter the race.

Ms. Rubin addressed her "open letter" to 10 Republican governors, senators, and congressmen, none of whom has yet made an endorsement and all of whom she says "would be preferable as a candidate to Newt Gingrich," to either make an endorsement or, better yet, to get in the race themselves.

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