Monday, January 30, 2012

Mitt To GOP: You Can't Always Want What You Get

But if you try sometimes, you might find...

Make no mistake about the Florida primary and the race for the Republican nomination. It's Mitt Romney's to have and to hold, 'til November 6 tears it asunder. The press, both virtual and paper-based, will continue to spin out stories showing that Newt still has some time to close the gap, or about how the conservative base will rally around Newt, and if he falters they'll move on to Rick Santorum, or how Mitch Daniels will be recruited to run a write-in or otherwise rogue campaign for those right-wingers with buyer's remorse.

As the famous saying about history goes, it's all bunk.

Romney is pulling a reverse Newt in Florida, coming from 9 points down after South Carolina to now lead by 9 in the latest polls (I'll be writing a Polling Report for Florida on Tuesday morning, but if you want a summary, you just got it).

The key to Romney's rise is the real story both for Florida and for what it bodes in the general election. It was not based on some new policy, or a burst of endorsements (in fact, Florida Governor Rick Scott hasn't endorsed anyone), or new-found respect in the blogosphere. It is based on virulently negative advertising and a debate performance that stressed attacks over substance.

That's it. Romney still has the same problems with his wealth, Bain Capital, his shifting stances on most issues and an inability to convince conservatives that he's one of them. But when he came out swinging last week attacking Gingrich's record, all of a sudden he became a rock star. His poll numbers rose. Newt became angry and lost his debating edge. GOP insiders began to turn on Newt. Which prompted this response saying that the GOP elites don't get it. Which also prompted Sarah Palin to use "Stalin-esque rewriting of history" correctly for grammar's sake, but totally wrong historically. In short, most of his party doesn't want Mitt to be the nominee, and that's a huge problem. They might warm up to him as the year progresses, but that's hardly a recipe for the vaunted Republican enthusiasm machine, which is coughing fumes at the moment.

The Republican Party is at war with itself. It will nominate a moderately conservative former governor who shares some of the right's disdain for common sense with a practicality born of his wealth and place in society. This will drive the hard-rightists crazy for the next 9 months and could fatally damage Mitt in the general election. But if his debate performances will be the bellwether for his campaign, he's rolling some mighty large dice. President Obama will have time to prepare and counter all of Mitt's arguments, and can appear as the steady leader behind an improving economy. Romney will have to be careful not to sound angry.

In the meantime, Newt says he's not going to drop out of the race. That will mean more negative ads and contentious debates. And more damage to the eventual nominee.

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  1. One report (MSNBC?) said over 90% of the Florida ads were negative. Pundits chimed in about whether this will steel Willard (like boot camp) or just give a bunch of ammo to Obama. Time will tell.

  2. Obama will need to go negative too, but this damages Mitt's reputation as being above the fray.

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