Politco’s 5 Things to Watch In Florida Tonight
January 31, 2012


1) Mitt’s margin
Gingrich needs a close race more than Romney needs a blowout victory.
For the former House speaker, finishing a respectable second means he can explain away a loss by arguing that he was outspent and out-organized by a superior Romney organization that was already in place and had a 2008 run under its belt.
If Romney wins by a lot — say, 12 percentage points or more — it’s likely to negate Gingrich’s victory in South Carolina, making that win about as useful a yardstick as Rick Santorum’s Iowa caucuses triumph.
2) Newt and women
The Romney campaign’s last hope in South Carolina was a big margin over Gingrich among women, but that turned out to be wishful thinking: Gingrich swept to victory across almost all significant demographic categories.
The good news for Gingrich is the story of his two divorces and his second wife’s allegations that he demanded an “open marriage” didn’t come up in the Florida debates or campaign.
Even Romney’s wife, Ann, who typically offers relatively apolitical but loving introductions of her husband, opened his first event in the state in Ormond Beach last weekend with a reminder of their family life.
“I want to remind you where we know our riches are,” she said. “Our riches are with our families”.
3) Hispanic Republicans
Four years ago, John McCain ran up huge margins against Romney in Miami-Dade County, where some three-quarters of Republicans are Hispanic.
This cycle, Romney has devoted significant resources to the county’s heavily Cuban-American voters, winning the endorsements of the Diaz-Balart brothers and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and campaigning with them on Sunday in Hialeah, a suburb of 225,000 where the
4) The Panhandle and Northeast Florida
In the Panhandle and in Florida’s rural north, GOP voters are demographically similar to the South Carolinians who propelled Gingrich to victory.
Closer to Jackson, Miss., than Miami and culturally more like Alabama than the wealthy retiree havens to the south, Panhandle locales like Pensacola are areas Gingrich must put up big margins if he hopes to stay within striking distance of Romney
5) Rick Santorum’s performance
The former Pennsylvania senator didn’t do any campaigning in the state over the weekend and then spent Monday in Missouri and Minnesota. He’s largely written off Florida, despite winning rave reviews for his debate performances last week and continuing to win some local endorsements.
Santorum continues to be the favorite of many evangelical voters here, not an insignificant population along the Interstate 4 corridor, but Gingrich has continued his calls for the under-funded ex-senator to leave the race and allow the former House speaker to consolidate the non-Romney opposition.
But Santorum has made it clear his strategy is to hang on and wait for what he expects will be another Gingrich implosion, leaving him as the conservative alternative to Romney.

Suffolk U./7 News Says It’s Gonna be a Blow-Out
January 30, 2012

BOSTON – Republican hopeful Mitt Romney has opened up a 20-point lead in the final days leading up to the Republican primary in Florida, according to a Suffolk University/7NEWS (WSVN-Miami) poll of likely Republican primary voters in Florida.

Romney led Newt Gingrich 47 percent to 27 percent, while Rick Santorum got 12 percent and Ron Paul finished fourth with 9 percent. Five percent were undecided.

“It is almost certain that Mitt Romney will top his 39 percent showing in New Hampshire,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “This poll also tells us that Romney could reverse and exceed Newt Gingrich’s percentage and margin in South Carolina – and do it in Gingrich’s backyard.”

Romney led Gingrich 55 percent to 24 percent among those voters who indicated that they had already voted, and he led 56 percent to 23 percent among Hispanic voters.

“If Mitt Romney hits a historic benchmark in this election, he has Hispanic voters to thank,” said Paleologos.

Economy

Romney was seen as the candidate who can fix the economy by 50 percent of respondents, compared to 23 percent who expressed confidence that Gingrich could fulfill that role.

Negativity

Voters disagreed with Gingrich’s claim that Mitt Romney was carpet bombing him with negative TV ads; 37 percent of likely Republican voters said Gingrich ran the most negative campaign, while 31 percent said Romney.

November predictions

Most loyal Republican voters expressed some skepticism about a GOP win in November. Regardless of who they personally support in the primary, 45 percent said they believe Romney will be the next president, while 21 percent said President Barack Obama and 15 percent predicted a Gingrich win.

In a Suffolk University/7NEWS (WSVN-Miami) survey of general election voters fielded before Obama’s state of the union address, Romney led Obama in Florida by 5 points, 47 percent to 42 percent.

A majority of likely Republican primary voters (55 percent) are satisfied with the field of candidates, while 39 percent were dissatisfied. Fifty-four percent don’t want another candidate to jump in at this point.

Bellwethers

Three separate Florida Republican presidential primary bellwether counties also indicate a Romney romp. In both Martin and Volusia counties, Romney topped Gingrich 52 percent to 24 percent, and in Sarasota County, Romney bested Gingrich 45 percent to 21 percent.

Flordia Jumps the Gun With Its Primary and It Pays Off, Why It Might Reshape the Campaign Map
January 29, 2012


A lengthy piece in ‘Ppolitico’ on how Flordia Republilcans ignored the RNC and got away with it:
Most of the ballots are still uncast in Florida’s presidential primary, but already Republicans here are declaring: mission accomplished.
It’s not that they suffer from an overabundance of confidence about defeating President Barack Obama in the general election. For Florida Republicans, the early primary is a victory in itself – the culmination of a long campaign to upset the presidential nominating calendar and seize huge influence over the selection of a 2012 nominee.
In order to hold a January primary, they defied Democratic and Republican party rules, invited penalties against their delegates at next summer’s convention and infuriated party leaders in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Now, Florida party leaders say they have every intention of making sure their unofficial status as the first mega-state primary becomes a permanent feature of presidential politics – not a one-off decision to crash the 2012 calendar, but an irreversible blow to the traditional early-state monopoly.
“We’ve achieved the goal of maximizing Floridians’ voices and impact on the election,” said Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, who supported the Jan. 31 primary date. “Whether we’re always specifically fourth or not is not as important as acknowledging that Florida is so diverse – demographically and economically and geographically – that makes it a great proving group and potentially decisive state in parties choosing their nominees.”
Cannon said the goal was never to blow up the party-sanctioned 2012 calendar, but rather to ensure that Florida is the first state where candidates are forced to run a “national-level, quality media campaign with radio, TV, et cetera.”
“We tried to show complete respect to the traditional early primary states that went before us. They give the candidates the chance to demonstrate their retail skills,” said Cannon, a former Rick Perry supporter who’s now neutral in the primary. “I’m hopeful that the parties will recognize that this is a smart and good way to go about it.”
Respectful or not to the Iowa-New Hampshire-South Carolina axis, Florida’s decision to hold its primary on Jan. 31 openly flouted Republican and Democratic National Committee rules saying that only the three longtime early states, plus Nevada, could vote before March.
When a commission empaneled by the Florida legislature chose to keep the Jan. 31 date – the same day Florida Republicans voted in 2008 – it forced Iowa and New Hampshire to move their elections forward and ended up overshadowing Nevada’s long-suffering caucus.
Missouri’s February 7th primary is mandated by state law. But the non-binding ‘beauty cntest’ has attracted almost no attention by the GOP candidates.
Ask virtually any Florida Republican why the state deserves special status and you’ll get the same answer: it’s huge, heterogeneous, soon to be the third-largest state in the country and it’s critical to the general election.

Perhaps most importantly, strategists in both parties say, by confronting the early states and their national party, Florida Republicans pointed the way for other states to do the same in 2016. Already, Republicans in Arizona and Michigan have decided to follow suit, holding their primaries on the less provocative, but still rule-breaking date of Feb. 28.
The state GOP will pay for its defiance – sort of. Florida’s delegation to the convention in Tampa will be cut in half and their delegates will be docked certain privileges and perks there. The state could be headed for another convention smackdown when it tries to seat its delegates on a winner-take-all basis. Primaries held before April are supposed to hand out their delegates proportionally – another rule Florida has declined to follow.
Read Moore: http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=A3E531C3-AD55-4ACE-8839-395CA6A75A34

Cain Endorses Gingrich
January 29, 2012


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Herman Cain endorsed Newt Gingrich for president here on Saturday, injecting some energy into the campaign with two days to go until Florida’s primary.
The former presidential candidate and pizza executive called Gingrich the right person to address the “crisis of leadership in the White House.”
“I hereby officially and enthusiastically endorse Newt Gingrich for president of the United States,” Cain told the cheering crowd here. “Speaker Gingrich is a patriot. Speaker Gingrich is not afraid of bold ideas,” he said.
“And I also know that Speaker Gingrich is running for president and going through this sausage grinder — I know what this sausage grinder is all about. I know he is going through this sausage grinder because he cares about the future of the United States of America.”
Gingrich thanked Cain and said he’d be a co-chairman of a commission on “jobs, economic growth and taxes” should Gingrich become president. He promised that “this little thing” known as Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan would be part of the national conversation.
“This is a real job creator who’s actually managed a company,” Gingrich said of Cain. “He’s going to be a great asset.”
Cain’s endorsement may not provide a major bounce for the former speaker. But it could infuse some energy into a campaign that’s now trailing Mitt Romney in Florida polls after a lackluster debate performance and scathing attack ads against Gingrich by Romney and his super PAC.

Florida Debate, Night Belongs to Romney, Not Gingrich
January 27, 2012

Politico’s 7 Take Aways from the Florida Debate Thursday night:

1) This was the “Trading Places” debate
For a 120 minutes, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich essentially traded roles — Romney, often meek and shrill-sounding as he defended himself this cycle, became the aggressor, and Gingrich, who’s played the debate hall crowd like a musical instrument in the past, seemed to shrink from the attacks.
Romney came with balled-up fists to the debate stage, and swung hard at Gingrich during the first few questions — in the exact fashion that the former House Speaker has typically gone at the front-runner.
But it’s the first half-hour of almost every GOP debate that’s set the tone for the rest — so the debate counts as a victory for Romney, who needed to keep the momentum from moving away from him again.
2) Whither Gingrich?
It was Gingrich who needed to recapture his momentum and he simply couldn’t do it.
The former House Speaker, appealingly pugnacious to GOP voters in past debates, simply seemed worn out and off point. Gone was the brawler who could whip up the crowd. And it’s not quite clear where he went.
He never raised any of the well-worn phrases he’s used to define Mitt Romney on the stump — “Massachusetts moderate” comes to mind. He also bypassed an opportunity to hit Romney over his Massachusetts health-care plan.
Gingrich’s pushback against Romney over the immigration issue simply failed to connect. He initially tried to avoid repeating his criticisms of Romney’s now-closed Swiss bank account on the debate stage — something he’s hit him for on the trail in the last few days.
Whatever the reason, this was not A-game Gingrich, who has used debates to pivot to strength. For a candidate who has cited his strength in debates as an electability factor and who needed to get his momentum back, this wasn’t a strong night.
3) The crowd was with Romney
Gingrich got what he wanted — a noisy crowd — after the audience was silenced in Monday night’s NBC News debate. Unfortunately for him, the crowd preferred Romney.
It’s hard to overstate how significant this was.
The crowd helped set the tone early on, noisily cheering for Romney after he derided Gingrich over the “anti-immigrant” claim. It was some of the loudest cheering Romney has gotten in any debate, and it largely came at Gingrich’s expense.
Many wondered whether Romney packed the debate hall with supporters; even if he did, he would hardly be the first candidate to so — it’s what well-run campaigns usually do.
4) Rick Santorum’s got game
We’ve said before that there’s no reason for Santorum to drop out of the race any time soon, and Thursday night’s debate was another reminder of why.
Santorum turned in another strong debate performance, and shined in areas where Gingrich failed to.
It was Santorum who brought the toughest attack against Romney over Massachusetts health care. Every time Romney pushed back, Santorum went back at him — underscoring every time that he thinks the former Massachusetts governor would have a hard time distinguishing himself against President Obama in the fall.
He also successfully tethered Gingrich to Romney over the issue of an individual health care mandate.
Romney called him “angry,” but GOP voters — for whom Obamacare remains a red flag and a major base-motivator — may not quite see it that way, and could be offended by Romney’s characterization.
5) Ron Paul was a crowd-pleaser
That does not mean he was giving serious answers to questions.
The Texas congressman laughed it up as he made quips about going for a 25-mile bike ride to prove he is in good health, and said the first thing he’d ask of Cuba’s leader if he called was what he wanted to talk about.
6) Wolf Blitzer refused to be John King
King got a memorable beat-down from Gingrich at the start of the last CNN debate, a few days before the South Carolina primary. Gingrich rode an anti-mainstream media wave of applause from the GOP crowd that night, and King retreated from asking any further questions about allegations from Gingrich’s second wife.
Blitzer refused to play that role.
He pushed Gingrich to explain comments he’d made on the stump about Romney’s wealth. When Gingrich looked exasperated, Blitzer continued.
7) The pause in debates is coming at just the right moment
After a season of what felt like dozens of debates, there are no more scheduled until Feb. 22 — when CNN hosts another event, this time in Arizona in advance of that state’s primary.
It’s a timely pause, given that, after so many of these face-offs, there really are no major, relevant questions left to ask of the remaining four GOP hopefuls. What more can voters possibly learn about the candidates that they haven’t heard in the six that have been held since Jan. 4?