Where there's a Willard there's a way

Willard (Mitt) Romney exceeded expectations in Florida last night - but the game ain't over until the fat lady sings

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Romney swept Florida. Newt's gotta change tack
On 1 February 2012 17:48

Since Newt Gingrich has been so interested in space lately, allow me to make the following pun. Last night was one small step backwards for Newt Gingrich - one giant leap forward for Mitt Romney. 

What I mean by this is that rather than the Florida result reflecting badly on Newt's campaigning efforts - this was more of a swing induced by the Romney camp themselves. About time, too.

What voters have seen in recent appearances and debates is a Mitt Romney they can get more on board with. Not totally, but certainly more than in previous months.

Mitt took the gloves off over the past ten days, hammering Gingrich and orchestrating a plethora of attacks on Gingrich designed specifically, and quite beautifully, to chip away at the 'conservative base' that we hear so much about. These are Reaganites who have heard Gingrich speak of little else except for maybe radical Islam and the 'mainstream media'. Romney found a way to turn them on him.

The SuperPAC not affiliated with Romney's campaign has also been spending enough in Florida to feed several thousand Floridian families for life. Nearly $16m was expended on this primary campaign and the Team Romney will tell you it was worth every penny.

But despite the variegated reasons behind Romney's 46.4% result in Florida, including but not limited to the disparity between the north, panhandle and south of the State, Romney will be tempted to let go of this momentum again. It's in his nature to ride waves instead of create them - a tactic his campaign has been painfully good at. Painfully for his ratings, that is.

The feistier Mitt, or 'Red Romney' as I like to call him, has resonated more with values voters and Reagan conservatives - disproving many people's assertions - including my own at some point, I'm sure - that Mitt can't fire up the base. His problem once again though, is once he gets the motor started - he has a tendency to stall it. Focusing on Obama is all well and good - the strategy behind this is to appear as the foregone conclusion - but Newt and others won't let it rest. 

While Romney and Newt were pounding the boards in Florida, Ron Paul for instance has been hitting other states who have their caucuses over the next month, cajoling delegates and raising an impressive amount of cash.

Mitt can out-fundraise the lot of his opponents, even twice over with the Florida win under his belt, but he cannot afford to rest on his laurels going into Super Tuesday. 

It is imperative for Romney that he stays intent on becoming the nominee, rather than trying to win the White House this side of August. As his campaign have now stated, they can't afford to let the boot off of Gingrich's neck.

For Newt, the only option is to swiftly move on from Florida, rising above the attacks, the media negativity and also rethinking just how he dings Romney. The Bain Capital and Romneycare attacks haven't and won't hold out. Newt's new line should no longer be, "Mitt the Pillager". Maybe something more along the lines of, "In your heart, you know it's Newt."

Raheem Kassam is the Executive Editor of The Commentator and tweets at @RaheemJKassam

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