All the recent polling shows former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney leading by double-digits, with the RealClearPolitics average of all polling data showing he’s 13 up on Republican rival, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
There is very little “new” information I can provide, but something that has rubbed me the wrong way about this entire race is the vitriol used by both Romney and Gingrich in order to gain an advantage. Full disclosure: I believe Romney has been the best candidate in the entire field since the beginning, I supported him in 2008 and have not waivered, but would have if Mitch Daniels or Jeb Bush had decided to run.
My disappointment with the Romney attacks stems more from their timing and their incessant nature, rather than with their message or context (more on this later). Despite building this massive lead since the first debate in Florida on January 23, even more so since Romney absolutely wiped the floor with Gingrich in the debate on January 26, Romney chose not to tone down the negative rhetoric to focus on his own positives. Instead he hit Gingrich, kept hitting him, and hit him hard, mainly with the information that was used against him in the Florida debates.
Gingrich likely wants this Florida debacle to simply end, and he’ll get his wish in that regard tonight around 7:00:09 tonight. I can’t call Gingrich’s Florida deflation “predictable,” because the more appropriate word is “unsurprising.” Why? Everything Gingrich has done in Florida has fit his entire candidate playbook up to this point.
Debates are his bread and butter. The advantage Gingrich gained and then held onto in South Carolina was a direct result of the raucous crowds at both debates. The first Florida debate hosted by Brian Williams of NBC featured a silenced audience, and Gingrich visibly couldn’t cope. He had an opportunity three days later to debate in front of a lively audience where many including myself thought that if he were able to do to that crowd what he did in South Carolina, Florida was likely his. Instead, he had his worst debate, even worse than the one he had just three days earlier, not only did he look unprepared to handle the Romney attacks, he visibly wilted under them on the debate stage.
Following the handbook, the next thing he had to do in order to respond to the debate was to go hard, and frankly ugly on Romney. “Massachusetts Moderate” became “Massachusetts Liberal” on the stump in the final days. And despite reports that his campaign staff advised against using it, Gingrich started and continued to perpetuate the idea that while Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney “eliminated” the Kosher Food Program under state funded elderly nursing care facilities. Here are the facts. Under the law in question, several of these nursing care facilities were considering closing Kosher kitchens in favor of serving pre-packaged kosher meals. The heavily Democratic Legislature proposed $600 million to keep the Kosher Kitchens open, which Romney vetoed. The Legislature, as it had done on several occasions during Romney’s gubernatorial tenure, overrode him and the program was never eliminated. Again, just following the playbook:
· 1. Acknowledge any success, whether a primary win or a jump in the polls as indicative of your greatness and inevitability as the GOP nominee.
· 2. When a debate (or two) goes decidedly your way, begin declaring the other candidates vying for a voting bloc you view as “yours” as a burden, then encourage them to drop out as a result of this obvious fact.
· 3. After failing to succeed in your strong suit, a debate, assail everyone but yourself as the reason for your failure, the other candidates, the media, the debate rules…whatever makes you feel better.
· 4. When you’ve seen your massive lead slip, become reversed, then inverted by double, begin lying about your opponent, his record, his entire purpose for running for the same honor you’re running for.
· 5. If any one of the strategies works at any time, for any reason, simply go back to the first bullet point.
· 6. Conversely, if anyone (likely all) of the strategies do not work, blame your campaign staff, start cheating on your third wife, propose swinging to her, if that doesn’t work, propose an open marriage. If that doesn’t work, wait another 12 years and run for President again.
Tonight, I think the race will be called as soon as election night coverage begins. Gingrich was projected to finish above Romney by about seven points in South Carolina, and ended up winning by nine. Romney’s attacks have clearly been effective, and Gingrich’s just simply have not been.
Newt has already tried to position himself with a loss inevitable by claiming that if he were the only conservative in the race, he’d easily beat Romney, but a poll done recently repudiates that typical Gingrich assumption. A Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that if the race continued with just Romney and Gingrich, Romney is winning that at a 55-44 clip.
Here’s what I’ll be watching out for tonight. Does Romney start to chip into that conservative vote? He did well in the suburban, yet strong conservative area around Jacksonville in ’08. If he does well there again tonight, does that translate into success in the Pan Handle?
The Pan Handle voting doesn’t end until 8pm, so we won’t know how the demographics will have been broken down there until around 9:30 or 10. This will also be the time where a solid prediction to the total vote Romney gets. Does he do the unthinkable and get to 50%? If he does, will that mean Gingrich is done and this thing is over?
I doubt it. Even if Romney gets to 50, Gingrich still has anger to get out, and his last stand will be in both Minnesota and Arizona. He needs to win both, if he doesn’t, any donation the Las Vegas billionaire makes to the Gingrich SuperPAC, “Win The Future or I’ll Lie About You” is the practical equivalent of burning paper money.
I’ll be on the blog and on Twitter, responding to all the Florida news tonight around 7 pm eastern.
It is my humble apprehension that Political Parties are to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution. – John Adams