A massive win for Mitt Romney in Florida last night taking 46% of the vote in last night’s Primary.
Mitt Romney – 46%
Newt Gingrich – 32%
Rick Santorum – 13%
Ron Paul – 7%
He also took all 50 delegates, which takes him to 65 at present; a candidate will need 1,144 delegates to win the nomination.
For Romney he has increased his vote share by 15%, from 2008, where he scored 31% and came in second to John McCain (36%) in Florida.
After the blowout in South Carolina, Romney needed some damage control. I wrote after the primary that he needed to release his tax returns and talk about Bain Capital. He released his returns, days after the primary and with a new debate coach he was able to talk unapologetically about his time at Bain Capital. This helped him during the last two debates leading into last night’s primary.
I am a big fan of Gingrich and believe that he would make a phenomenal President but have been disappointed with his campaign. There are serious organisational problems and he can’t seem to stay on message. Does he attack or defend, be positive or negative. Each primary seems to be different and that creates confusion.
When he is talking about ‘grandiose’ ideas, articulating true conservatism and free market principles based on solutions then few could beat him; as you saw in South Carolina. However in Iowa he was struggling to stay on message when he became front-runner and collapsed in the polls.
Newt will say that there has been a
monsoonof false negative ad’s against him from the Romney camp which has derailed his candidacy. To a degree that is true and it is hard for him to respond with so little money, but most of the ad’s are not flat out lies and candidates have pulled them off the air if they’ve been wrong. Negative advertising is fair game in primary politics in my opinion. Most of the time it fails and the candidate on the receiving end will get a bump in the polls.
With Newt,the problem we have here is not so much the negative ads but that people don't like him personally. The exit polls from last night were rather telling: Whilst he fared better amongst Men and the Very Conservative voters, he was trounced by Women, Hispanics & Latinos. Also, Romney was perceived as better a tackling the deficit, improving the Economy and defeating Obama in November. Gingrich’s unfavourable are 20 points higher than Romney in Florida, which will be a huge swing state in the General Election.
The question is why isn’t Newt Gingrich loved by the Republicans Primary goers? When he was Speaker of the House, Congress passed the first balanced budget in a generation, leading to the repayment of over $400 billion in debt. Congress also cut taxes for the first time in sixteen years and reformed welfare, leading to over sixty percent of welfare recipients either getting a job or going to school. In addition, the Congress restored funding to strengthen defence and intelligence capabilities, an action later lauded by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission.
With that record of achievement, you do question why he isn’t coasting to the nomination.
As mentioned in prior postings, my theory is that whilst his message is profound, the folks do not like the person saying it.
Peggy Noonan former speech writer and Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan summed it up well over the weekend:
“One way Newt is unlike Reagan, is that Reagan was a constructive figure, not destructive. If Newt is the donkey who knocked down the barn, Reagan’s the guy who’d build it. He wasn’t driven by need, and anger wasn’t his fuel. He was equable, even-tempered, and personally content. Martin Anderson always said Ronald Reagan didn’t need high office to feel good”.
With his history on marriage being such, his tumultuous rein as Speaker of the House and his angry and condescending nature- the fact that Obama actually appears to be a disciplined family man makes it an awkward contrast. In a Rasmussen Poll taken just a few days ago Obama was beating Gingrich by17 points in a hypothetical match up 52%-35%.
With Romney now winning Florida, he is looking very comfortable heading into February. The next states are Nevada, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan & Arizona. All bar Arizona went to Romney in 2008 (Arizona went to McCain who was their Senator). If he can preserve those victories, then he can go into Super Tuesday on March 6th looking very formidable indeed. He will have momentum, delegates, money and an air of inevitability about him.
What happens to Newt and Santorum?
Well…. Newt was saying that when you take his share and Santorum’s together it is markedly more than Romney. Essentially, the Anti-Romney or Conservative vote is stronger than Romney. That has however been debunked as Mitt scored more than the two combined last night. Newt has been pushing for Santorum to pullout so there can be a united front; however, the Santorum isn’t budging just yet as he thinks he is the alternative. That means that Romney will continue to look good going into Super Tuesday on March 6th with a split field.
For Newt, he has to stop attacking Romney, stay positive and on message and continue to discuss big ideas - which is when he is at his best. He has to make it a battle of ideas and continue to look more Presidential against Obama day in, day out. If he can do that and maintain disciplined then he may start making inroads into Romney. At this moment it is looking the steepest of mountains to climb…but you never know.
For Romney, he can’t assume this is done and dusted just yet. He has work to do with the Conservatives and cease these negative ads. The focus for him must be Obama.He should be responding to the State of the Union, press conferences and providing a really 'compare and contrast' against the President. If he can look Presidential, be a leader against the Obama charges of class warfare, tax hikes and high deficits, then he will consolidate his lead and increase his popularity. If he continues to attack the other candidates, then it will backfire and cause mayhem.
For Santorum, he is a warrior but really doesn’t have the charisma, organisation and the money to compete longer term. Unless someone collapses, I don’t see a realistic path to the nomination. He didn’t have the capacity to compete in Florida which tells you about the state of his campaign. He hasn’t done anything of note since the Iowa Caucus on January 3.
This race is far from over….at the moment Romney is sitting comfortable but we have seen changes in the race that make this the most unpredictable primary in years.
The focus must now shift to President Obama and the below numbers should be all the ammunition to beat him in November!