Romney Takes Big Step But Gingrich Vows To Continue
No matter how you look at it, Mitt Romney’s convincing victory in the Florida Republican Party primary election is a big deal. Florida was a major showdown between Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Gingrich came into the state with major momentum after crushing Romney in the South Carolina Primary on January 21st.
Then came the two debates in Florida. We know now that Gingrich has thrived on the debates and his performances over this year and last have fueled not one but two political comebacks. But this time the comeback belonged to Romney. His take no prisoners style, especially in the second Florida debate, really turned the race here on its head and put Romney on a winning trajectory.
Gingrich’s decision not to fight back caught many people by surprise and may have cost him dearly in Florida. Romney piled on the negative ads and put Gingrich in defensive mode, not one of his strong points. Gingrich loudly complained about the Romney attacks and the news media, but most Florida voters I talked to didn’t seem to care. In fact, several people I spoke with at a polling station in Winter Park said Newt’s personal baggage and recent behavior while under attack convinced them that Romney would be the stronger candidate against President Obama in the November general election.
It’s the Electability, Stupid
I heard it over and over again in the greater Orlando area of central Florida. Republican voters want change and they want a winner in November and many here decided that Romney, not Gingrich, was the stronger choice.
Many folks believe Gingrich has too much of a negative personal history that would give the Obama campaign lots of material to work with in the general election campaign. They’ve also seen the relentless TV ads here in Florida that bombard the airwaves morning, noon and night, as my grandmother used to say. It seems like a lot of the more pragmatic Republicans have decided it’s time to settle the nomination fight within the party and get on with the business of rallying behind a nominee they believe can defeat the president.
To be fair, a number of Gingrich supporters I spoke to were adamant in their belief that Gingrich would be the stronger candidate because he is the clear conservative who would provide a clear contrast with Mr. Obama. But most of them said they would be willing to support Romney in November if he winds up being the nominee.
Floridians Turned Off By Negative Ads
We know the negative campaigning and TV ad barrage are part of the modern political arsenal, and in a huge state like Florida where you have to depend on local TV markets to get out your message, that was certainly true this year.
But lots of people complained though that they were turned off by the negative ads and some Republicans expressed worries that the divisive campaign between Romney and Gingrich would tear the party apart and make is vulnerable to defeat in November. Others worried that the Obama campaign will simply take up the ad themes raised by the Republicans against each other, further weakening their chances of winning back the White House in November.
But just as many voters say they accept the fact that attack ads and a focus on personalities over issues are facts of life in the modern political era, and they expect the Republican Party to be able to unite before November, largely because of their dislike of President Obama.