After tonight, Newt Gingrich has to be considered finished. You don't get to be the nominee if you don't win primaries, and if Gingrich can't win Alabama and Mississippi, it's hard to imagine any other state in the country where he can win.
While Gingrich may remain some kind of factor, in almost every remaining state, this race devolves to a Romney-Santorum battle.
That's great news for Santorum, who has been hoping and yearning for a two-man race.
It's acceptable news for Romney, who knows that party donors and insiders dread a Santorum candidacy as likely to lead to a 300+ electoral vote Obama blow-out.
And it raises this question for Republican party conservatives: Is Rick Santorum really the place where they want to place their hopes?
The Santorum candidacy pushes Republicans toward an election in which the issues are religious, cultural, and sexual, not economic. It's a candidacy that pushes the party away from metropolitan areas, away from areas of growing population, and rebases the party everywhere that is not dynamic, not growing. The concerns of hard-pressed America are deeply worthy of attention and respect. They call for responses and solutions. That's not what a Santorum candidacy offers. (As we've seen with the Santorum proposals to spur manufacturing with one single change in tax law, this is not a policy-serious campaign.) Instead, a Santorum candidacy offers an airing of resentments and grievances. Is that really where party conservatives want to go?