Mitt Romney won the state of Florida’s GOP Primary, and we congratulate him – To paraphrase Dr. Ray Stantz in Ghostbusters 2 – “Mr. Romney, you’ll be happy to know that almost 33% of our staff voted for you in the Primary…”
That being said, as the staff sat around the conference table on Wednesday, we asked each other what the GOP Primary showed us both good and bad – here’s what we came up with…
First, we learned that Romney is not a pushover when he is behind the 8 ball. Coming off of a pretty crummy showing in South Carolina, Romney was determined to make a good showing in Florida and did so. He exercised good strategy in spending a massive amount of money in the more populous areas for advertising. Outspending Gingrich by 5 to 1*, Romney blanketed the airwaves, and his numbers in these areas showed the results.
Second, we learned that Romney can get Florida Republican voters. Well, half of them at least – in the areas where there is a large portion of Republicans of a more moderate demeanor. This worked well for Romney in the Primary, where only Republicans were able to vote. Florida (particularly SOUTH Florida) has had a tremendous upsurge in voters who have switched their party from Republican to Independent. Like much of the country, this switch in Party affiliation is not to demonstrate ‘Centrism’ but instead to voice a lack of confidence in the Republican Party’s Conservativism. While this bodes well for a Republican candidate in the General election, Gingrich and Santorum were much more heavily favored in his group. It should also be noted that despite an increase in membership numbers, the Republican Party is now the 3rd Party in Broward County from a membership perspective. The independents are often members of conservative grassroots organizations such as 9/12 and the Tea Party and their focus is constitutional Conservativism, which is by all indications is to the right of where the bulk of Romney’s platform sits.
Also, we learned that Romney can perform well in a debate. Romney took Gingrich to task during the Florida Debate about the negative ads that Newt’s campaign had run. Instead of taking the most expeditious and genteel route, an immediate apology, Gingrich responded with further attack, giving Romney greater latitude. Furthermore, Romney was able to justify the significant attack ad spend as a response to Gingrich’s truculent attitude in the debate. It was a well-played debate by Romney, and may have cost Gingrich all 50 of the Florida Delegates (at least at the time of this writing). Gingrich is normally very strong in a debate, but had an off night, and came under serious attack. We will state for the record that BOTH Romney and Gingrich are entirely too thin skinned in the debates. All of the candidates are politically experienced, and should be beyond this kind of rattling
Finally, we learned that Romney is good on the economy, but will run into difficulties with the Government-provided healthcare issue. Senator Rick Santorum pointed this out in the debate, and it is likely that no matter how many times Romney says he will make the repeal of Obamacare his primary mission; all it will take is Obama demonstrating the similarities between the Massachusetts plan and the Federal Plan to effectively hamstring Romney’s arguments. Romney needs to strengthen his case on this issue.
The primary also showed us that Gingrich can rally Tea Party support, but that he needs a more effective ground team in each of the states. We also learned that establishment Republicans are worried about having Gingrich as the Republican nominee. It can be inferred that this concern is due to his knowledge of the way things work in DC. Bottom line, they won’t be able to pull one over on Gingrich. Gingrich has need of a good, trustworthy, consistent ground team – and it is not too late to have one. If he gets that in the next few weeks then FL becomes a hiccup, rather than an ulcer.
Additionally we learned that Santorum can give a good accounting of himself when he is given the chance, but that unless he is able to canvass the state, his election performance will be curtailed. Santorum has strong convictions, and is, by all acounts, a very ‘nice guy’. Some of the moderate elements of the Republican ‘Big Tent’ have differences of opinion with his personal beliefs, but outside of Florida that group will not be as significant.
The Florida GOP Primary was tough for many of our staff to watch, because every one of the candidates has one or two (or several) supporters on our team. All of the candidates have strengths and despite our internal preferences, we are all committed to supporting the eventual nominee when the National GOP Primary process has been completed. Each of us has our own “favorite” candidate, but we recognize that this election is too important to let our 20% differences derail efforts to turn this country from the dangerous path it is on.
Hopefully all Republicans, both Moderate and Conservative will be able to accomplish that same unification when the dust from the GOP Primary has settled!