Now, one of the first things worth noting is that the first four primaries/caucuses (I am just going to use primaries from now on to mean both) in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida don't on their own mean an immense amount. Florida, the most important of those four contains 50 delegate votes. California, for example, contains 172 delegate votes. What these primaries do mean, however, is momentum. The press is likely to go nuts with the results of the first four primaries, and so focus its attention on those who are leading. This is not a precise science: often early leaders in the race, such as Mike Huckabee in 2008, fall out to stronger candidates who perform in more important states. However, a strategy of concentrating solely on the big states can also be a banana skin, as ex-NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani discovered in 2008.
However, this year, former House speaker Newt Gingrich is leading in the Iowa, South Carolina and Florida polls, while Mitt Romney leads in New Hampshire. At the end of January, when these four polls are done, I predict a massive amount of attention on Gingrich because of the way things will look. Remember, perspective is important, but often thrown out the window.
The first three states which hold primaries (Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina), award their delegate votes proportionally. Florida, however, is a winner-takes-all deal. If current polling, which I nipped from Real Clear Politics remains the same as it does now (which it won't, as polling still includes Herman Cain who only dropped out on Saturday), Newt will be far ahead of former Massachusetts governor come the end of January.
In Iowa (28 delegate votes), Gingrich is polling at 26%, Romney at 16% and Texas congressman Ron Paul at 14%. Roughly, this would mean that Gingrich would snag seven votes, Romney four and Paul three.
In New Hampshire (12 delegate votes), Romney leads at 37%, Gingrich 21% and Paul 14%. This translates to five votes for Romney, two for Gingrich and one for Paul.
In South Carolina (25 delegate votes), Gingrich polls at 27%, Romney at 18% and ex-candidate Herman Cain at 18%. This translates to eight votes for Gingrich, five for Romney and four for Cain.
In Florida (50 delegate votes), Gingrich leads with 36% of the poll compared to 20% for Romney, his closest challenger. This means Gingrich will scoop 50 delegate votes (winner takes all, remember?).
In total, after the first four primaries, Gingrich will have 67 delegate votes, Romney 14, and Paul and Cain will have four each.
So don't be surprised to see the media follow Gingrich around post-Florida, and for the ex-House speaker to maximise the attention on him.
To put it in perspective though, one requires around 1,200-odd delegate votes to win.