Newt Gingrich continues his campaign to brand (and not without reason, actually) former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney a — get ready, hide the kids from this word, hope it won’t get this site deleted from the Internet — moderate (there I said it). And it may well work in Florida but the Republican Party could be facing some real collateral damage come November:
Once the Republican presidential campaign came to Florida, it was only a matter of time until someone played the Charlie Crist card.
In an attempt to tarnish Mitt Romney’s conservative credentials, Newt Gingrich on Tuesday connected Romney to Florida’s former governor, the once-ambitious moderate who fell so far out of favor with the GOP that in 2010 he left the GOP.
“We discovered last night that Mitt Romney has picked up Charlie Crist’s campaign manager,” Gingrich said Tuesday at the Tick Tock Restaurant in St. Petersburg. “I thought that told you everything you need to know about this primary.”
“As governor of Massachusetts [Romney] was pro-abortion, pro-gay rights, pro-tax increase and pro- gun control,” he said.
Fair enough. That is Romney’s record, even though Romney now treats his record like a guy who has a CD player treats old vynl records.
But here is Gigrich taking it a step further:
“Now that makes you a moderate in Massachusetts but it makes you pretty liberal in a Republican primary. That’s probably why he hired Charlie Crist’s staff.”
Question: why in the world would anyone who is a moderate Democrat, moderate independent voter, moderate Republican vote for a candidate or party that holds them in such clear, utter contempt? Not that Crist isn’t low hanging fruit for anyone wanting to appeal to conservatives in Florida:
In tying Romney to Crist, Gingrich reached for the simplest, most direct and deadliest weapon available to him: In Florida conservative circles, there’s no more reviled figure than the state’s former governor, who went from prospective national candidate to GOP pariah in record time.
As recently as 2008, his endorsement was highly coveted in the GOP presidential contest. But by 2010, after supporting the Obama administration’s stimulus program and gaining a reputation for flip-flopping, Crist’s support on the right collapsed. Viewed as the embodiment of political expediency, his seemingly insurmountable lead in the 2010 Senate GOP primary vanished as Marco Rubio, once a long-shot challenger, captured the imagination of the tea party movement and national conservatives. With no viable remaining route to the GOP nomination, Crist switched to run as an independent and lost to Rubio in November.
With his Crist slur, Gingrich sought to frame himself as this year’s Rubio, the Florida insurgent who bucked the establishment by harnessing conservative grass-roots energy. Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond even compared the ex-speaker with the celebrated freshman senator in the spin room after Monday night’s NBC News/Tampa Bay Times debate.
But if you think Rubio is running around campaigning for Gingrich, think again. He’s neutral in the primary race, but in recent days has scolded Gingrich.
Rubio was not happy over Gingrich’s attack on Romney regarind Crist. And he has some issues with that guy who wants to “change the planet”: he thinks Gingrich needs to change some of his attack lines:
Sen. Marco Rubio scolded Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign over a Spanish-language radio ad that accuses rival Mitt Romney of being “anti-immigrant”
“This kind of language is more than just unfortunate. It’s inaccurate, inflammatory, and doesn’t belong in this campaign,” Rubio told The Miami Herald when asked about the ad.
“The truth is that neither of these two men is anti-immigrant,” Rubio said. “Both are pro-legal immigration and both have positive messages that play well in the Hispanic community.”
Rubio’s sharp rebuke comes a day after he subtly corrected Gingrich for comparing Romney to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, branded by conservatives as a turncoat who left the party before Rubio beat him in 2010.
The criticisms from someone of Rubio’s stature in the Republican Party comes as polls show a near-even race, albeit with Gingrich surging.
Rubio plans to stay neutral in the race. He’s a potential running mate whom both candidates would love to have on the ballot. And he’s gaining iconic status among many national Republicans who see him as a face of the future in a nation that’s growing more Latino.
And Gingrich is not doing so well with Latinos in Florida:
Mitt Romney has a 15-point lead over Newt Gingrich among Hispanic voters in Florida, where the next primary showdown will take place Tuesday, according to a new poll.
Among the Latino voters in the Sunshine State, 35 percent of Hispanic Republicans said they would back Romney, compared to 20 percent who said they would vote for Gingrich, an ABC News/Univision News survey found Wednesday. However, about one in five Hispanic GOPers in the state said they were still undecided.
The problem with Republicans is the way their campaign is playing out they are going to totally turn off moderate voters. Moderates may lean to the left or right. It is not a monolithic group. But many moderates do use the word with some pride and the fact that it oozes from Gingrich’s and other GOPers lips like saying “@!#%(&!!” (this is a family oriented site) can be deadline come November). Conservatives cannot win with conservatives alone. Gallup:
Americans’ political ideology at the midyear point of 2011 looks similar to 2009 and 2010, with 41% self-identifying as conservative, 36% as moderate, and 21% as liberal.
If this pattern continues, 2011 will be the third straight year that conservatives significantly outnumber moderates — the next largest ideological bloc. Liberalism has been holding steady for the past six years, averaging either 21% or 22%, although notably higher than the 17% average seen in Gallup polling during the early to middle ’90s.
Longer term, the Gallup ideology trend, dating from 1992, documents increased political polarization in the country. The percentage of moderates has fallen to the mid-30s from the low 40s, while the combined percentage either liberal or conservative is now 62%, up from 53%.
Again: why would moderates vote for a candidate or party that holds them in utter contempt. Can the GOP win by getting conservative and liberal votes?
If you believe that will be the winning coalition then I can sell you this for $100.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.