Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Romney Wins Florida By Double Digits

In a major blowout, Mitt Romney crushed Newt Gingrich 46.4% to 31.9% in the Sunshine State, with Rick Santorum taking 13.4% and Ron Paul bringing up the rear with 7%.

Romney's victory was telling in that he won big in a number of important groups.

Women overall abandoned Gingrich for Romney by a 22 point spread, and married women dumped Newt by an almost two-to-one margin, 28% to Romney's 51%.

Among Hispanics, Romney crushed Gingrich, taking 54% of that vote to Gingriches' 14%. This is especially telling because of Romney's relatively hardline stance on illegal immigration, which was distorted by a large number of negative Spanish language ads put out not only by the Gingrich campaign but by Super PACs and Union money friendly to President Obama.

And Governor Romney actually took the Tea Party vote away from Newt Gingrich. Out of the 66 percent of Florida voters who said they supported the Tea Party, 41% cast their ballots for Romney and 38% for Gingrich.

When asked which candidate had the best chance to defeat President Obama Romney got 58%, according to the exit poll data. Only 33 percent of those voters said they supported Gingrich.

Newt Gingrich barely managed to hold on to Evangelicals, 39% to Romney's 36%.

Florida is a massively important win because it's a vital state Republicans are going to have to carry if they are to defeat President Obama in November. Unlike the other primary states we've seen thus far, Florida is a larger state with a diverse population that has demographics that looked pretty favorable to Gingrich going in. It's a southern state, the GOP electorate is conservative and Tea-Party friendly like South Carolina, it has a large senior population and Gingrich came in to the state with the momentum (and cash) from his win in South Carolina just a short time before the Florida primary.

If Newt Gingrich got beaten like a gong in Florida, it's likely going to be difficult for him to compete with Romney anywhere out of the Deep South.

Another important milestone is that both Gingrich and Romney shed important parts of their image.

Newt Gingrich lost his perceived mastery as a debater,giving several poor performances prior to Florida vote. And Mitt Romney definitely put to rest and questions among conservatives about his toughness and ability to go toe to toe with Obama in the general with his blitzkrieg campaign that knocked Gingrich out of the ring.

As John Podhoretz wrote on Monday in the New York Post, Florida was a challenge to Romney’s ability to play hardball: “The clean-cut Boy Scout Ken-doll candidate from Massachusetts needed to show his fellow Republicans that he could be mean, tough and merciless on the attack — that he could take it to his rival and best him.

Accomplishing that didn't come without a price, however. What Romney may have gained among conservatives is offset by what he may have lost from swing voters disgusted by the negative tone of the campaign.

Newt Gingrich's reaction was to promise a scorched earth campaign no matter what the cost, and to have the nerve to call for the other candidates to get out of the race so that "Newt Gingrich, the conservative alternative can defeat the Massachusetts moderate." Yes, he's talking about himself in the third person now. Just for that bit of pomposity, I hope Rick Santorum, a far better man takes over Gingrich's number two spot fairly soon.

Governor Romney, on the other hand, attempted to repair some of that damage in his victory speech, focusing on President Obama, calling for unity in the battle ahead and graciously giving a shout out to his rivals, saying:

There are fewer candidates than when the race began, but the three gentlemen left are serious and able competitors. And I congratulate them on another hard-fought contest in this campaign.

Primary contests are not easy – and they’re not supposed to be. As this primary unfolds, our opponents in the other party have been watching. They like to comfort themselves with the thought that a competitive campaign will leave us divided and weak.

But I’ve got some news for them: A competitive primary does not divide us; it prepares us. And when we gather here in Tampa seven months from now for our convention, ours will be a united party with a winning ticket for America!

Three years ago this week, a newly elected President Obama faced the American people and said that if he couldn’t turn the economy around in three years, he’d be looking at a one-term proposition. We’re here to collect.{...}

In his State of the Union Address, the President actually said, “Let’s remember how we got here.” Don’t worry, Mr. President, we remember exactly how we got here! You won the election!

Leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses. In another era of American crisis, Thomas Paine is reported to have said, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Mr. President, you were elected to lead, you chose to follow, and now it’s time for you to get out of the way!

I stand ready to lead this Party and our nation. As a man who has spent his life outside Washington, I know what it is like to start a business. I know how extraordinarily difficult it is to build something from nothing. I know how government kills jobs and, yes, how it can help.

President Obama’s view of capitalism is to send your money to his friends’ companies. My vision for free enterprise is to return entrepreneurship to the genius and creativity of the American people.

On one of the most personal matters of our lives, our health care, President Obama would turn decision making over to government bureaucrats. He forced through Obamacare; I will repeal it.

Like his colleagues in the faculty lounge who think they know better, President Obama demonizes and denigrates almost every sector of our economy. I will make America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, for innovators, and for job creators. And unlike the other people running for President, I know how to do that. President Obama orders religious organizations to violate their conscience; I will defend religious liberty and overturn regulations that trample on our first freedom.{...}

President Obama believes America’s role as leader in the world is a thing of the past. He is intent on shrinking our military capacity at a time when the world faces rising threats. I will insist on a military so powerful no one would ever think of challenging it. President Obama has adopted a strategy of appeasement and apology. I will stand with our friends and speak out for those seeking freedom.

President Obama wants to “fundamentally transform” America. We want to restore America to the founding principles that made this country great.

Our plans protect freedom and opportunity, and our blueprint is the Constitution of the United States.

Together, we will build an America where “hope” is a new job with a paycheck, not a faded word on an old bumper sticker.

The path I lay out is not one paved with ever increasing government checks and cradle-to-grave assurances that government will always be the solution. If this election is a bidding war for who can promise more benefits, then I’m not your President. You have that President today.

Pretty good speech, actually. Almost Reaganesque. I especially liked the lines about the faculty lounge and the faded bumper sticker.

And I also know given a choice between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney whom I want sitting in the White House.

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