In South Carolina ten days ago, Newt Gingrich won with 40 percent of the vote against Mitt Romney’s 28 – the numbers in Florida today were completely the opposite. The favorite won, order has been restored in the republican primary and a strengthened Romney can confidently look forward to future battles.
The Florida election turned just as the polls predicted – Mitt Romney won with 46 percent of the vote against Newt Gingrich’s 32, Rick Santorum’s 13 and Ron Paul’s 7 percent. According to CNN, Romney won in nearly all voter groups, even among the Tea Party supporters by 41 percent to 37 for Gingrich, among women by 52 to 28, and among Hispanics, who accounted for 14 percent of the more than 1.6 million voters, by 54 percent to 29. Only among those who called themselves “very conservative” and among the evangelicals did Gingrich beat Romney.
Romney’s victory came through an outrageously expensive TV campaign totaling 15 million dollars, against Gingrich’s 3 million, mostly through the so-called Super PACs, which so far during the campaign’s four weeks have spent over 44 million dollars on television advertising.
Almost all TV ads in Florida were negative. And the candidates were not throwing pies; they were throwing knives from deep down in the mud. The question now is how this ruthlessly negative campaign in Florida will affect the continuing campaign. There is a lot of bad blood between Romney and Gingrich, as noticed in their speeches tonight. None of them was particularly generous, no warm congratulations, and that cannot be good for the GOP in the long run, ahead of the battles against President Obama.
Republicans answer these concerns by saying that we will come together in the end, we will unite around our party’s candidate, whoever he is, in order to defeat Obama. That remains to be seen. But the White House cannot but be delighted with the bitter internal Republican campaign and hopes it goes on for a long time. That depends on money, of course, and only Romney has plenty of that.
For Gingrich, the future must now seem bleak, even if he boldly announced tonight that 46 States remain in the campaign. His negative tactics to insult Romney – a moderate, yes, a liberal from Massachusetts – did not seem to go over well. Neither did his tactics to appear as the conservative heir to Ronald Reagan, as an anti-establishment and anti-Washington candidate when, in fact, he is the archetype of a political insider, the archetype of Washington insider with a long career in the capital both as a politician and a lobbyist.
The message did not fit the messenger. Florida’s voters seem to have realized this. And that does not bode well for Gingrich’s future in this campaign.