Raw Politics: Florida face off: There will be blood
January 26th, 2012
07:47 PM ET

Raw Politics: Florida face off: There will be blood

If you’re looking for a haven of sanity and logic, Florida wouldn’t necessarily be your first stop. But Republicans have got no choice: Tuesday’s vote may be the party’s last shot at imposing order on the spiraling chaos of the primary season. So far, signs aren’t promising.

The GOP race looks like a dead heat in the CNN Florida poll released yesterday, with Romney at 36% and Gingrich at 34%. A 25 point Romney lead in our last poll basically evaporated in just two weeks’ time.

But is the race really neck-and-neck? Maybe. Probably. But the truth is: right now, nobody really knows. We’re seeing significant day-to-day swings in the numbers, with both men trading momentum over the course of our three-day poll: Gingrich holding an undeniable advantage one day, Romney holding a significant edge the next. We’re now in uncharted territory - this late in the season, this is not how Republican presidential campaigns work.

What’s driving the numbers? The evidence isn’t all that clear-cut. But here’s one clue: unfavorable ratings for both men are rising by double-digit margins in virtually every poll. In other words, as the campaign grows bloodier by the day, it’s as though Florida Republicans wake up each morning and think to themselves: Who do I like less today?

Take today: this afternoon, Romney’s campaign put out a release calling Gingrich “Dr. Newt and Mr. Hyde,” as Romney himself spent the day slamming the former speaker at virtually every stop. And Gingrich accused Romney of “lying,” “grotesque hypocrisy,” and treating his GOP rivals as though they’re "stupid." (In fact, wrapped all the week’s anti-Romney attacks in one line that stands as a masterpiece of the genre: “…[W]e’re not going to beat Barack Obama with some guy who has Swiss bank accounts, Cayman Island accounts, owns shares of Goldman Sachs while it forecloses on Florida and is himself a stockholder in Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac while he tries to think the rest of us are too stupid to put the dots together, to understand what this is all about.”)

Florida is a must-win state for Mitt Romney if he wants to hold on to the electability argument that had been the chief strength of his campaign before primary season voting got underway. This is also a must-win state for Newt Gingrich: it’s a closed primary, which means only Republicans can weigh in – so if Romney wins, Gingrich’s argument that he’s the only candidate who can unite and excite the conservative base will take a major blow. Right now, Romney’s got the establishment riding to the rescue, with a wave of GOP figures from Bob Dole and John McCain to Ann Coulter shifting into anti-Gingrich emergency mode. And Gingrich has been pulling in the crowds, with thousands crowding rallies from Sarasota and Naples. This is a winner-take-all state, with 50 delegates at stake; there’s no prize for second place.

Which brings us to tonight. As of now, tonight’s debate may be their last face-to-face showdown for the next month or so. Debates have been critical this cycle, and maybe none more so than tonight’s: Whoever comes out on top tonight stands to grab critical momentum heading into the home stretch here in Florida – so both Romney and Gingrich are likely to come out swinging.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Raw Politics
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Sue Schelinski

    Great debate! With regards to Gingrich, why no mention of his membership on the Council for Foreign Relations which aligns itself with the Trilateral Commission and others in support of a World Order. He also is not the model I want for the upcoming generation with regards to morality. No vote.
    Paul? I love his strength and committment to eliminate the income tax and get gov't out of our personal lives, but cannot accept his position on the military. No vote.
    Romney has the business experience to do what needs to be done-"say no to spending!" He needs to stand even stronger on his positions. I see a few shifts in his philosophy that tell me he is listening to the American people. That's refreshing. Strong committment to conservative values-the constitution, family, Judeo-Christian foundation of our country and lives as he speaks-a good example for youth. He may have a few things to learn as a politician, but I feel he would represent me as a Republican. Yes vote.
    Santorum-strong orator with good conservative values. He may not have the business experience and the manpower support to beat Obama. I think he woould make a good Vice President and would unite the country behind Judeo Christian values, rather than divide it. He and Romney would make and interesting team. No vote, but some consideration.
    Obama? The perfect politicia!. One of his mentors was Neil Abercrombie, present governor of Hawaii, check out his political affiliation and more especially that of his wife. Birds of a feather! No vote.
    I too believe this election will make or break this nation. Keep up the debates. There is nothing as American as unbiased, fair journalism. Thank you. Job well done.

    January 26, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  2. mary

    Romney will win Florida. Newt is a part of the old regime. The American public gets that. A few cheers from the gallery, does not a nominee make. That is the 360 here.

    January 26, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  3. John L Arnold

    Did I actually hear Santorum use the phrase "the global warming hoax"? Was that what he said? Did I actually hear Gingrich use the phrase "the academic press"? I am acutely aware that the rational, non-partisan (dare I say "intellectual") examination of foreign and domestic policy issues is passe', is so decades ago before the death of high culture. Nonetheless, I am still astonished when candidates for the Presidency of the United States are so comfortable in directly acknowledging that data doesn't matter.

    January 26, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  4. David Castle

    Why does CNN ignore Ron Paul? If CNN covered him as a legitimate candidate, he would become one in the public's eye and go up in polls.

    January 26, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  5. Carol K. Bell

    Romney has yet to give a plan other than slamming the other candidates or Obama. Slamming others will not solve the problems that the American people are facing today. Romney, Gingrich and Santorum have used the power of office for their own personal gains. Ron Paul is a man of truth, substance and integrity. Ron Paul is a man that has stood up against the very things that the other candidates have not stood up for but yet have benefited from. We need someone in office that has a back bone and will not sell us out. Americans can not afford to be sold out again. Ron Paul has my vote...There are more Ron Paul fans out there than what the media wants to admit to. Why does the media not reflect the fact that there is a group of people out there standing up against the business as usual. We want our country back in the hands of the American people not a group of elite politicians that dictate to us when, where, why and how our hard earned dollars are spent. POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!!

    January 26, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
  6. Frances Rodriguez

    How unfortunate it was for all hispanics US citizens not to have all presidential candiidates comment on thier position regarding Puerto Rico's political status and their position regarding puertoricans becoming the 51st state.
    Why was the question raised only to Santorum?

    January 26, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
  7. Ronette Stewart

    I live in a state that has a high Native American population. I am not a Native American, however I feel that A. Flesher's comment about one of the candidates "going off the Republican Reservation" was totally uncalled for! I believe he owes Native Americans an apology!

    January 26, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  8. mary mcgregor

    Wolf thank you for not backing down to Newt!!! He thought he could bully you, and did NOT get away with it!!!!!

    January 26, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  9. Lisa Davsi

    Also, it is about time that Romney stood up for himself and Rick Santorum actually demonstrated some passion for what he was saying. Whew, they are getting better (i.e. more entertaining) with practice. Ron Paul, you are a refreshing voice in the quagmire of politics!!

    January 26, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  10. Jerry Chicago

    Newt tried to attack the media and repeat what he did to John KIng. You see the difference when Wolf did not put his tail between his legs like John King did. John looked scared and in his mind was why is he picking on me a total amature. Wolf stood up to this bully and smacked him down bravo Wolf.

    January 26, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  11. Lisa Davsi

    Okay, thank you Wolf Blitzer for standing up to Gingrich. He is the one who brought up the topic, so I'm glad you made him answer the question. You were obviously prepared for it. Much better showing from CNN this time. Thanks.

    January 26, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  12. Jaker, Dublin, Eire.

    To an outsider, Romney did terrible tonight...he evaded the tax questions a couple of times...and said he'd discuss them at another time...more like when he'll have thought up another few excuses not to talk about his immoral tax payments while American the country over are suffering. Gingrich was down as well & not as positive as the last debate. Santorum did good & spoke very well...& he'll probably pick up more voters in Florida's count. Paul was his same auld self – but I think he has as much an idea as I have that he's just there to make up the four.

    PS. Obama must be quietly laughing tonight.

    January 26, 2012 at 10:11 pm |