All of the candidates except Gingrich, Romney and Paul should drop out before Iowa

The Newt Surge is official. Over the last week, Gingrich’s Intrade odds of winning the nomination rose from 16% to 39%. Romney has faded a little but still leads with 47% odds. No one else is above 5% odds.

The polls are even more stunning. Rasmussen shows Gingrich leading 38%-17% in a national poll. Real Clear Politics lists polls with Gingrich leading Romney by 15-30 points in Florida, South Carolina and Iowa, and trailing Romney by only 10 points in New Hampshire.

In the general election match-up, Rasmussen has Gingrich leading Obama by 2% and Romney trailing Obama by 6%. Romney is typically competitive with Obama. The tier-two GOP candidates usually trail Obama by double digits.

As a result of this data, we believe only Romney and Gingrich have a realistic hope of winning the 2012 GOP nomination. We believe that only Romney, Gingrich and Paul have a sufficient following to justify continuing.

Perry, Cain, Bachmann, Santorum, Huntsman and Johnson are all great Americans. They should be selfless and “country first” and bow out now, several weeks before the Iowa caucuses. For context, Tech Guy Patrick supported Pawlenty. Tech Guy Charles donated $2,500 to Perry’s campaign but has no affiliation with it. We aren’t in the tank, or even yet supporters of, Romney, Gingrich or Paul.

Gingrich and Romney each have significant assets and liabilities. GOP voters should spend December and January weighing those two candidates. The GOP needs to pick its best nominee, and it isn’t clear yet to GOP voters who that should be.

But couldn’t a tier-two candidate surge the way Cain and Gingrich did? No. There isn’t enough time between now and the early January contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. Perry and Cain are now widely deemed unelectable due to their well-known shortcomings. Huntsman is not in the mainstream of the GOP and relishes it. Santorum had a distinguished Senate career but has failed to generate any enthusiasm from voters. Bachmann is a dynamo personality with some great ideas, but she was thoroughly considered, and rejected, as a tier-one candidate.

Furthermore, neither Gingrich nor Romney is likely to stumble badly. They have been the top two debaters all year long. Neither is likely to have a candidacy-ending series of gaffes. Each has enough credibility with voters to survive a gaffe or two. And each has been opposition-researched fully over multiple years, unlike newcomer Cain. Neither is likely to produce a major new scandal.

Timely exits could even make the tier-two candidates more relevant than they are now.

Cain has a core group of followers who really trust him. Cain’s endorsement would have a big impact on the race.

Perry’s Texas track record is widely admired by GOP voters. His endorsement, money and campaign staff could help either Romney or Gingrich prevail. Which leading candidate does Perry think is better suited to bring Texas-class job growth, balanced budgets and tort reform to the whole nation?

Cain, Perry, Bachmann, Santorum and Huntsman could be helpful not only in the rest of the campaign, but in the next administration.