After coming under fire for spending millions on ads to negatively define his chief rival former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in a campaign in which a staggering 92 percent of all ads have been negative, former Massachusetts Mitt Romney won a decisive (47 percent) victory over Gingrich (30%). He also delivered a speech in which he tried to pivot from a slice-and-dice-em primary battle opponent to a party nominee.
The only problem: Gingrich later made his speech and it’s clear Gingrich intends to go all the way to the convention if he has the money. He and his supporters now have the slogan: “46 States to Go.”
In a speech in which he seemed unbowed and brimming with confidence that he is Churchillian, Gingrich made it clear he views the race now as a “two man race” between a “conservative” (Gingrich) and a “Massachusetts moderate” — a campaign that will pit the power of money against “the power of ideas.” And, in his battle, Gingrich is being backed by powerful conservative talk show hosts, former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin (the endorsement is all but formal) and former GOP front-runner Herman Cain. Don’t look for Gingrich to go anywhere: analysts who suggest that Gingrich may be ready to press this to the very end. Gingrich noted that he has come back from the political dead twice during this primary season. Gingrich did not congratulate Romney for his win.
Here’s a text of Mitt Romney’s forward-looking victory speech — excerpts and the speech as provided to Andrew Malcolm by the campaign. The video:
What does it mean? What will happen next? Here’s a cross section of news and weblog reporting and opinion:
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney claimed a decisive victory in the Florida primary Tuesday, as a conservative electorate chose Romney over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as the best positioned to take on President Obama in November.
Just 10 days after Gingrich handed Romney a drubbing in the South Carolina primary that had threatened to derail Romney’s campaign, Romney returned the favor in Florida, capturing the biggest prize yet in the Republican nominating contest.
Early results showed Romney holding dominating leads across much of the state. He appeared to swamp Gingrich, despite that exit poll data showed the electorate was dominated by conservative voters who support the Tea Party. Gingrich had pressed the same argument in Florida that had won him South Carolina: That Romney was not a true conservative.
But the key to Romney’s victory may be found in exit poll surveys that showed voters’ top priority was finding a candidate that could beat President Obama. Buoyed by millions in largely negative television advertising, Romney appears to have persuaded Florida voters he was more reliable bet to challenge Obama in November.
Romney will hope to use the victory in the large and diverse state to finally seal the deal with Republican voters who have been hesitant to embrace his candidacy. But Gingrich has vowed to press ahead. As polls closed, a large screen at his election night party in Orlando displayed the words “46 states to go,” a message designed to emphasize that the Republican race remains in it’s early stages.
Romney scored a decisive win in Florida’s primary Tuesday by regaining momentum on electability, according to exit poll surveys, neutralizing major weaknesses from previous contests and opening up a big advantage among female voters.
Mitt Romney rolled to victory in the Florida primary on Tuesday, dispatching an insurgent threat from Newt Gingrich and reclaiming his dominant position in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
The commanding win by Mr. Romney offered a forceful response to the concerns that were raised about his candidacy only 10 days ago after a stinging loss to Mr. Gingrich in the South Carolina primary. It also raised new questions about whether Mr. Gingrich can persuade Republicans of his electability.
“I stand ready to lead this party and to lead this nation,” Mr. Romney told supporters here, urging Republicans to remain united and to focus on the party’s goal of defeating President Obama.
The outcome of the Florida primary promised to reorder the rest of the Republican field. Sensing vulnerability in Mr. Gingrich, Rick Santorum began running a new advertisement in Nevada and Colorado comparing Mr. Gingrich’s positions to the dual Democratic villainy of Representative Nancy Pelosi and Mr. Obama, saying his support for policies including the Wall Street bailout was “a slap in the face to the Tea Party.”
The victory by Mr. Romney, delivered by a diverse coalition of the Republican electorate, allowed him to return to the hard job of pulling together a divided party and begin anew his argument that he has the best chance at beating Mr. Obama. Yet Mr. Gingrich indicated that he was staying in the race, with a “46 states to go” sign hoisted at his election night party in Orlando.
Advisers to Mr. Romney pointed to his success here as a harbinger of his strength in a general election challenge against Mr. Obama. No state where Republicans have competed this year is more reflective of the nation’s geographical, political and ethnic diversity than Florida and its complexity seemed to help Mr. Romney to turn back the grass-roots coalition that Mr. Gingrich had been counting on.
9.22 pm. Here’s something worth noticing: Romney was much more personal in his attacks on Obama than Newt is. His attacks are on golfing, singing and a Teleprompter. But most of it is a detailed list of things he wants to do as president. The red meat is raw: abolition of all Obama’s legislation, the Keystone pipeline, the “war on religion”, the “tsars”, and on and on. Like an episode of Hannity.
9.19 pm. He’s for changing the “entire system”. Uh-oh. I’d prefer someone who capably “managed the decay” myself. But I’m a conservative, not a radical like this dude. But he’s got fire tonight; his speech has more passion, more spontaneity, and is more intelligent and less dishonest than Romney’s. But how anyone could be more blatantly dishonest than Romney is beyond me.
9.16 pm. People power vs Money power: a great line. Then the reminder that he has come back from the electoral dead twice already. He invokes Lincoln, and says he is not going to run a Republican campaign, but a people’s campaign. He’s going rogue on both parties.
9.10 pm. Oh goodie. Newt is about to speak. He reprises his “true conservative” vs “Massachusetts moderate.” Then he tells me that those signs tweeted by Weigel were made precisely for us, the “elite media.” Really, you shouldn’t have.
Two in three Florida primary voters say the presidential debates were an important factor in their vote, according to early CBS News exit polls. That’s a positive sign for Mitt Romney, who was widely seen as besting rival Newt Gingrich in the two Sunshine State debates over the past week.
For evidence of the importance of the debates, look no further than South Carolina, where nearly the same percentage of voters said the debates were important in early exit polls. Gingrich was widely seen as the victor in the two debates there, and he went on to a double-digit victory.
The exit poll results being discussed here are early results; full exit poll results will be released at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. (The polls in Florida close at 7:00 p.m. across the state, but the state is part of two time zones. Because the northwestern part of the state is in the Central Time zone, polls there don’t close until 8:00 Eastern Time.)
Electability was what Florida Republican voters were seeking in a candidate: 45 percent said the most important candidate quality is that they could defeat President Obama. That was followed by having the right experience (20 percent), having strong character (17 percent) and being a true conservative (13 percent).
Asked who has run the most unfair campaign, 37 percent of Florida voters pointed to Romney, whose super PAC has blanketed the state with negative ads about Gingrich. Thirty-four percent pointed to Gingrich. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, who did not seriously contest the winner-take-all primary, were selected by just four percent each.
Thirty-nine percent of Florida voters said campaign ads were an important factor in their decision; 58 percent said they were not. Romney and his super PAC far outspent his rivals in advertising in the Sunshine State, which is one of the most expensive states in the country to run ads in because of its many media markets.
The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza on how this changes the primary race:
Mitt Romney’s across-the-board victory in the Florida Republican presidential primary on Tuesday night serves as a direct rebuttal to the criticism that he simply isn’t conservative enough to be the party’s nominee and leaves his remaining rivals with few obvious next steps as the nomination fight moves to Nevada next month.
Exit polling reveals that Florida’s primary electorate on Tuesday was more conservative than four years prior when Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) won the state and wrapped up the nomination.
Eight in ten Florida primary voters identified themselves as Republicans and Romney beat Gingrich among that group 48 percent to 34 percent. (Florida is the first vote of 2012 that is limited to only registered Republicans.) Two in three Florida voters said they supported the Tea Party movement.
Florida’s recent past also suggests it could have been friendly territory for a conservative insurgent challenging a more centrist Republican. In 2010, now Sen. Marco Rubio surged past then Gov. Charlie Crist, forcing Crist out of the Republican primary due to a rapid erosion in his support.
Given the exit polling and recent Florida political history, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Romney’s main rival for the Republican nod, could struggle to make a convincing case — as he has attempted to do in recent days — that Romney cannot win a one-on-one fight against a more conservatively-aligned candidate.
Polling conducted in recent days also complicate Gingrich’s argument. In both NBC-Wall Street Journal and Washington Post-ABC polling, it’s Romney, not Gingrich who would benefit if former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, a conservative favorite, decided to drop from the race. (Santorum has pledged to continue on in the contest despite a less than rousing finish in Florida tonight.)
Romney’s clear victory also offers few obvious outs for his rivals, most notably Gingrich….
Update: The story of the exit polls is simple: Romney beat Gingrich across the board, in virtually every single demographic except the utmost conservative (“strong” tea party supporters, those who say abortion should always be illegal, etc.). A sample of his margins of victory: Women by 22, Latinos by 23, seniors by 17, married women by 23 (Marianne’s revenge?), tea-party supporters by two, Catholics by 26 (likely a byproduct of Romney’s advantage among Latinos), those who said the economy is the most important issue by 20, and even those who say they’re falling behind economically by a single point. As I write this, with two thirds of all precincts reporting, he’s at 46.9 percent. He probably won’t get to 50, but he may very well top the combined total of Gingrich and Santorum, which stands right now at 44.8 percent.
Newt Gingrich kept up his primary race tradition of not calling Mitt Romney to congratulate him on his win in Florida Tuesday, the Romney campaign told TPM.
The Romney campaign confirmed to TPM that Gingrich didn’t call Romney Tuesday night, just as he didn’t after Romney won in New Hampshire. Gingrich didn’t congratulate Romney on stage in his election night speech here Tuesday, either.
Romney’s campaign notes that Mitt Romney dialed Gingrich on the night Gingrich won South Carolina.
I’ve asked the Gingrich campaign for comment.
Yes—this is basically over now. Mitt Romney’s decisive win in Florida proved two things. First, that there aren’t quite enough insurgent/Tea Party–type voters just yet in the GOP primary electorate to disrupt the “next in line” thesis, which has held for Republicans since 1968. Second, that $16 million worth of (mostly) attack ads does indeed make a difference…..
….If Newt says Newt will keep going, then Newt will keep going. But at some point, probably sooner rather than later, he’s going to look silly. Remember, in 2008 Hillary Clinton had the credibility to hang on until June because she won some important states. California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New Mexico. Also Michigan and Florida (well, sort of—remember, they jumped the line and didn’t really count). Indeed, Clinton partisans in 2008 got a lot of mileage out of that very argument: she beat him in the key states Democrats need to win, so how can we Democrats send out into battle the guy who lost most of the important Democratic states? Can Gingrich win some significant and unexpected states and mount anything resembling that argument? I have trouble seeing it. Winning Georgia and some other Southern states won’t impress.
However: the Gingrich wing of the party and movement—and yes, there now is such a thing!—will keep banging at Romney. I realize pundits say this every election, but I haven’t, and this time it’s really true: this is the nastiest race yet. Clinton and Obama didn’t touch this in terms of nastiness. At 1600 Pennsylvania, someone is smiling.
DickPolman1 Dick Polman
This guy has GOT to stay in. Newt pledges “his sacred honor.” Ponder that one, at risk of squirting your drink thru your nose. #flprimary
18 minutes ago
DickPolman1 Dick Polman
Disappointed that delusional Newt forgot to say: “As president, I will get Saul Alinsky off food stamps and send him to the moon” #flprimary
21 minutes ago..
DickPolman1 Dick Polman
Yo, Newt. Is there going to be a Saul Alinsky reference, or what? #flprimary
27 minutes ago
DickPolman1 Dick Polman
Newt says it’s “clear” FL voters saw him as the conservative alternative to “moderate” Mitt, but Mitt won conservs 41 pc to 36 pc #flprimary
30 minutes ago
DickPolman1 Dick Polman
Newt whacks “the elite media,” but hey, the media would be thrilled if he stays alive & keeps the race from becoming a snore. #flprimary
34 minutes ago
DickPolman1 Dick Polman
Here’s Newt! I expect something Churchillian (“We shall fight on the beaches…we shall fight in the fields and in the streets”) #flprimary
39 minutes ago
DickPolman1 Dick Polman
Here are the standings tonite in The Republican League: Romney 2-2, Gingrich 1-3, Santorum 1-3, Paul 0-4. #flprimary
44 minutes ago
DickPolman1 Dick Polman
Pitiful to hear Mitt serve up faux-populist slop about Obama haunting “the faculty lounge.” From a guy with two Harvard degrees. #flprimary
46 minutes ago
DickPolman1 Dick Polman
The shocking revelation out of Florida: Herman Cain doesn’t have any coattails. #flprimary
49 minutes ago
DickPolman1 Dick Polman
Newt only split North FL/Panhandle with Mitt, at 38 pct each. That bodes ill for Newt as the home-boy southerner on Super Tues. #flprimary
54 minutes ago
DickPolman1 Dick Polman
Newt is eyeing southern-fried Super Tues, but his failure to make the ballot in VA looms more disastrous than ever. #flprimary
richgalen Rich Galen
Newt does know he lost, right?
30 minutes ago Favorite Retweet Reply
richgalen Rich Galen
Newt prepared for this speech with the same dedication he prepared for the two FLA debates. Yikes.
34 minutes ago
richgalen Rich Galen
“46 States to Go” Gingrich signs. More like a lament, than a call to arms.
45 minutes ago
The Huffington Post’s always-must-read predicts the campaign will get even nastier. Here are a few chunks from his post:
The nastiest campaign is about to get nastier — and will stay that way all the way to November. The Democrats are planning to play the game the same way the Republicans have been playing it: on character more than issues.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) is down but certainly not out, and planning to take an even lower road between now and Super Tuesday on March 6. Romney’s Florida co-chair says politics is a “full-contact sport” and vows more of the same. But Democrats, while enjoying the spectacle of Republican self-immolation, are preparing their own version of the politics of personal destruction against former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, the man they remain convinced will be the GOP nominee.
Studying the flow of ads and campaigning in Florida, top Democratic strategists think Romney has left himself vulnerable not so much on issues, such as health care, but on the question of who he is as a person and a campaigner.
In other words, it’s not about Bain Capital, it’s about Romney’s character, or so the Democrats are beginning to claim.
Independent voters, watching the proceedings here, don’t like what they are learning about Romney, said Brad Woodhouse of the Democratic National Committee. The advertising and rhetoric in Florida was all negative; none of it touted Romney’s agenda, accomplishments or beliefs.
“If you look at polls in the battleground states, you see that people are getting a negative view of him,” Woodhouse said. “Independent voters don’t like a candidate who is all-negative, and that is the way he campaigned in Florida. More than that, they don’t like a candidate who seems willing to say anything. They don’t trust him.”
Romney has beaten Gingrich by a solid, double-digit margin. He has won more votes than Gingrich and Rick Santorum combined. Florida has given Romney all 50 of its delegates (assuming the allocation isn’t changed later). This now gives him the lead in the Associated Press’ delegate count, though there is a long way to go.
This is the beginning of Romney’s closing argument, where he tries to regain his aura of inevitability. Gingrich will need to come up with a strategy for remaining viable over the month of February, where he is not expected to win any primaries or caucuses, and desperate robocalls about Romney trying to deprive Holocaust survivors of kosher food probably won’t cut it. Santorum will also have to see if he can gain any momentum based on Gingrich’s defeat. Ron Paul effectively bypassed Florida, but one wonders if getting just 7 percent of the vote there — his first single-digit showing of 2008 — will have any impact on his caucus state supporters.
There are some chinks in Romney’s armor. The strong combined Gingrich-Santorum showing in the Panhandle suggests Romney will continue to have problems in the South. Gingrich also carried voters who cared most about abortion, suggesting concerns remain about Romney’s pro-life credentials.
Romney’s big victory marks a sharp reversal for Mr. Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, who just 10 days ago won the South Carolina primary by nearly 13 points.
Election 101: Nine things to know about Mitt Romney
Romney’s strong debate performances last week, in which he pounded on the former House speaker over his tumultuous speakership and consulting work for mortgage giant Freddie Mac, proved to be crucial. According to early exit polls, about two-thirds of Florida primary voters cited the debates as important in how they voted.
Florida, the fourth largest state in the country, is by far the biggest prize to date, with 50 GOP convention delegates at stake. In some ways, Florida is a microcosm of the country, with large minority populations and residents who have moved here from all over the United States. Romney’s victory portends an ability to play to varied crowds in future primaries.
The exit polls show about 45 percent of Florida GOP voters said that the ability to defeat President Obama was the most important quality in a candidate. The top issue was the economy, selected by 60 percent of voters.
Despite Romney’s resounding victory in Florida, the three other candidates in the race all say they’ll continue to compete.
On Tuesday, before the polls closed, Gingrich promised to remain in the race “probably six months – [until] probably June or July – unless Mitt Romney drops out earlier.”
Mitt Romney trashed Newt Gingrich and company at the polls in Florida, in what looked like at 8 PM: Mitt 47%, Newt 33%, Rick Santorum 13%, Ron Paul 7%.
Mitt out-raised and out-organized the rest of the pack (from Hot Air: “Romney raised $24 million in fourth quarter“), putting together a pretty good election day GOTV (Get Out The Vote).
The Republican race is not over and Newt and the rest will continue to battle. I want them to continue. But the handwriting is on the wall.
What’s likely is that Mitt will be the nominee — despite this poll, which has Newt beating out everyone for the nomination. It is also, I submit, likely that (if the polls and the markets are to be believed) Mitt will lose against Obama. (Newt, by the way, loses by an even bigger margin.) What can I say? I have nothing against Mitt Romney. If if does garner the nomination, I’ll yawn and pull the lever for him when the time comes. But, as I’ve often said, he’s our Bob Dole: the safe guy, the guy who is next next in line, the guy that the establishment can line up behind because he won’t “rock the boat,” because he won’t challenge the status quo in any fundamental way, because he has the same tapioca running through his veins that Barack Obama has, only he is not a narcissistic anti-America radical whose incompetence vies with his malevolence for ascendency. Mitt is a nice guy who knows how to manage things, even if he has been a dismal failure in getting himself elected. He is, as I’ve also said, a company man at a moment when the problem is the company. But the Republican establishment wants Mitt. He is, they say, more “electable” than anyone else actually running. I suppose that will be some consolation when his candidacy puts Barack Obama back in the White House.
I hope I am wrong about all this. Let’s see.
Mitt Romney rode one of the most negative primary campaigns in the annals of presidential politics to a landslide victory in Florida, but the Republican contest is likely to rumble on for weeks in defiance of his desires.
The prolonged fight is a marked shift from the GOP’s last nomination battle, when John McCain effectively won the race in early February. New party rules and campaign financing schemes are making it harder for Romney to prevail as swiftly as front-runners of the past.
Romney buried Newt Gingrich under a merciless fusillade of attack ads. By various estimates, Romney and his allies outspent the Gingrich forces by a lopsided margin – roughly 5 to 1 – and virtually every Romney ad in the last week of the campaign was harshly negative.
Female voters fueled Romney’s victory, favoring him by 22 percentage points over the thrice-married Gingrich, whose second wife went public less than two weeks ago with new details of his six-year affair with a former congressional staffer who is now his third wife.
Gingrich, siding with grass-roots conservatives in a deepening feud with the GOP establishment, has said he will keep his campaign going “all the way to the convention” in August. Gingrich demonstrated his intent at his election-night headquarters in Florida, speaking from a lectern that bore a blue-and-white sign reading “46 States to Go.”
Whether Gingrich can deliver on his boast to keep going for months should be evident no later than mid-March. Romney will put renewed pressure on his rivals to give up by then if he is successful in the 17 delegate contests that take place in the first two weeks of next month; if not, the race will probably continue well into the spring. The new dynamics of the GOP battle stem, in part, from a deliberate effort by party leaders to forestall a rush to judgment in selecting the nominee.
Only a five day old Miami Herald poll had Ron Paul down in the mid single digits. Everybody else showed him going into voting day with a solid 11-12 percent of the vote – but it looks as if he’s only going to tally seven. In the meantime, Romney outperformed the latest polls – which makes it at least appear that close to half of Paul’s voters went to Mittens.
Let us avoid the temptation to fit Mitt with a crown. In the space of four weeks, Romney won and then lost Iowa, won New Hampshire decisively only to be squashed in South Carolina before tonight’s Sunshine State triumph.
He still needs to earn 1,057 delegates to earn the Republican nomination. Nearly half of those delegates are up for grabs on Super Tuesday on March 6th. If the past 28 days have been eventful, Lord only knows what is in store for the next 35 days.
Folks, we have a long, long way to go before this is all said and done.
Gingrich is edging perilously close to the complete meltdown stage, and it won’t end pretty. My only advice to him now is just accept the Sweet Meteor of Death.
It’ll be quite painless, in fact.
Santorum continues to paint himself as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who added Florida as his second victory in a month, along with New Hampshire.
Santorum said Newt Gingrich “had his opportunity” to be the conservative nominee after a big win in South Carolina, but added, “it didn’t work.”
Meanwhile, Gingrich promised his supporters that he would keep his campaign going until the Republican convention this summer.
In Las Vegas, the former senator congratulated Romney for his “resounding” victory in Florida, but went on to chide both Romney and Gingrich for creating a Republican “mud wrestling match” in the Sunshine state.
“Republicans can do better,” Santorum said. “We can do better than the discussion and the dialogue and the accusations that were going on in the state of Florida,” referring to the harsh attacks both Romney and Gingrich employed in the last week.
“The American public does not want to see two or three candidates get into a mud wrestling match where everyone gets dirty,” Santorum said, adding that “What we saw in the last few weeks in the state of Florida is not going to help us win this election” against President Obama in the fall.
The former senator is using his narrow Iowa caucus victory and support among religious conservatives to maintain his relevancy in the GOP nominating contest.
The AP notes that Gingrich lost women voters in droves — a sign that, yes, they were indeed turned off by the ABC interview with his ex wife:
Women abandoned Newt Gingrich in droves Tuesday and helped fuel former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s triumph in Florida’s Republican presidential primary, according to data from an exit poll of voters.
Romney also drew strength from Florida’s legion of older voters, Hispanics and two staples among GOP voters in presidential contests so far — those looking for someone to defeat President Barack Obama and people focused on the still flagging economy.
While Romney bested the former House speaker narrowly among men, he strongly outdistanced him among women, winning around five of their votes for every three that went to Gingrich. In the three states in which Republicans had already voted for their presidential nominee — Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — there was relatively little difference in how the sexes divided their votes between the two rivals.
The only thing that will keep Newt Gingrich running past Florida is ego.
It’s no great surprise that Gingrich lost Florida. He was dead from the moment that he clammed up in the Florida debates — and the millions that Mitt Romney poured into the state in negative ads didn’t help either. A lesser man would be crushed by this result. But Gingrich isn’t just a man. He’s a visionary, a historian, the inventor of supply side economics, a space marine and a latter-day Casanova. I’m getting all this off the back of one of his DVDs (just kidding).
Newt has promised to soldier on right up to the Republican National Convention in late August. To be fair, he has good cause to keep running. Gingrich is leading in the national polls, and only 5% of the total delegates have been selected thus far, so there’s still a lot in play.
Most of the states are distributing their delegates proportionately to the vote that each candidate gets. That means that there is a good chance that Romney won’t go to the convention with the necessary “50% plus one” that he needs to win on the first ballot. If Gingrich enters the convention with the second-largest number of delegates, he could either horse trade his way to the nomination or play kingmaker.
The above scenario is an exciting fantasy to political wonks, and the commentators have been discussing it ad infinitum. But it would require a lot of money from Gingrich and a lot of patience from the voters to work. Both are likely to run out by Super Tuesday on March 6….
…..In short, just about the only thing that will propel Gingrich through to the national convention is ego. But that ego is large enough to have a gravitational pull of its very own — so don’t expect to see Newt stop now.
On CNN, commentator and Red State founder Eric Erickson stresses that despite Romeny’s win, he has not closed the deal with conservatives and the more the media suggests its over the more they’ll look for some other option.
Positive energy and optimism were the defining characteristics of all the Romney volunteers and supporters I talked to. They were all confident that Romney’s message of renewal would carry him to victory in the general election. Far from believing any of the spin that he’s the man Barack Obama always wanted to run against, one volunteer described Romney as Obama’s “nightmare candidate” – someone who actually knows what he’s doing when it comes to economic growth.
Romney supporters I spoke with placed a high value on party loyalty and unity. Their biggest beef with Newt Gingrich, who did not have a lot of fans in the room, came from their sense that his attacks violated that sense of political community, particularly when he went after Bain Capital. On the other hand, they appreciated the way Romney’s old foe from 2008, John McCain, pitched in and supported Romney this time around.
Interestingly, no one I spoke to had a bad word to say about Rick Santorum. They all liked him personally, and were comfortable with the idea of his joining the Romney ticket as vice-president, should he feel motivated to do so.
Romney stressed the theme of party unity and strength in his victory speech, declaring that the tough primary battle would not fragment the Republican Party, but would instead make it stronger. He saluted his remaining competitors for their efforts in “a hard-fought race,” noting that “primaries aren’t easy – and they’re not supposed to be.”
So … that was kind of decisive for Mitt Romney, wasn’t it?
The bad news for Mittens, though, is that polling released today hints at the fact that he might not have it quite so easy in the near future. Three polls were released today, the Gallup national tracker, plus new polls in Ohio and Missouri (where PPP wisely polled both the caucuses and the primary because … well … Newt, y’know).
As it happens, Mitt leads in none of them. Though, in fairness to Mr. Florida, he is right on the cusp of the lead in virtually all of them (Missouri being the notable exception):
NATIONAL (Gallup Tracking): Gingrich 28, Romney 27, Santorum 17, Paul 13
MISSOURI CAUCUS (PPP): Gingrich 30, Santorum 28, Romney 24, Paul 11
MISSOURI PRIMARY (PPP): Santorum 45, Romney 34, Paul 13
OHIO (PPP): Gingrich 26, Romney 25, Santorum 22, Paul 11