Smashed, bashed, routed, nuked-choose your adjective and they mean the same thing, Mitt Romney trounced Newt Gingrich and all the other contenders standing in the way of his march to Tampa as the Republican presidential nominee.

The polls had hardly closed with less than 50 percent of the tally on board when Romney, by most of the media, was predicted to be the victor by a landslide.

One of the most telling indicators for the Romney camp was his showing among conservatives. This was the one sector in which Gingrich may have had a glimmer of hope, but he was narrowly defeated in this category by a margin of 3 percent or 4 percent.

It was practically a foregone conclusion that Romney would triumph. He spent more than $16 million in mostly negative ads, four times as much as Gingrich, according to several reports; handled his adversaries capably in the two debates in Florida; and led by double digits in nearly all the polls conducted during the last weeks. Plus, he commanded a decisive lead among early voters.

“Doing well in Florida,” Romney told reporters on Tuesday, “is a pretty good indication of your prospects nationally.”

Romney was edged out in Iowa, beat all the contestants in New Hampshire and was headed by Gingrich in South Carolina. However, Florida was more to his liking and may be a clearer reflection of what lies ahead.

While Gingrich has promised to stay in the race, it may spell the end for Rick Santorum and Ron Paul who finished third and fourth, respectively. Santorum was at home caring for his afflicted child and Paul was up in Maine rallying his troops for perhaps a last hurrah.

Romney collected all 50 delegates in this winner-take-all state, which President Barack Obama won in 2008, and he appears to be on target to do it again if his lead over Romney among independents mean anything.

Down the road, the next stop for the GOP candidates is Nevada, and that should be a homecoming for Romney with its Mormon density. And there’s Michigan, his native state, and Arizona, where another bastion of Mormons await to cheer him on.

Another factor favoring Romney, despite his recent good showings, is that there are no debates until Feb. 22. Romney’s focus on the economy during the debates in Florida proved to be a difference for many in their exit poll responses.

Even so, it’s a long way back to Florida and the convention, and more than a thousand delegates have to be corralled and Gingrich’s remaining hope is that he can hold serve in the few states that should be his in the South.

If not, Gingrich can reap some solace in public exposure, which he relishes, and maybe the appearances on his road show will sell a few more books and help him pick up some future speaking engagements.