Earlier today I tried to explain why Newt's numbers had stabilized after their recent nose-dive:
[W]hile Republican voters don’t want him to be their nominee, they don’t want Romney to stroll to the nomination either. The week-and-a-half or so Newt spent in freefall gave them a chance to imagine the primaries playing out as a Romney coronation, and they didn’t find the scenario especially heartening. So just like Newt needed to peak within a day or two of Iowa to have a shot of winning, Romney probably needed Newt to flame out within a few days of Iowa to have a shot of wrapping this race up very quickly. Otherwise there was going to be too much time for buyer's remorse to set in toward Romney, as may be happening now.
For what it’s worth, the influential conservative blogger Erick Erickson just illustrated this phenomenon, more or less, in an entry entitled: “Yes, I am comfortable supporting Newt Gingrich.” Some key lines:
A few weeks ago I said I wasn’t sure I could get comfortable with the idea of supporting Newt Gingrich. … But as between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, I have to … to say I am comfortable with Newt Gingrich now. ...
Put simply — as Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney moved the state left, socializing its healthcare system and doing nothing to stop gay marriage until he knew it was too late to do anything about it.
As Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich moved the nation right with a balanced budget and welfare reform. …
I could and would go with Gingrich over Romney. But I’m still kind of hoping I won’t have to.
Sounds like Erickson was none too keen to see Newt win the nomination until Romney started looking inevitable again. At which point Gingrich became acceptable. As I say, the Newt flame-out came too soon for Romney.