ORLANDO, FLORIDA—Newt Gingrich has publicly pledged to have the single most productive day in presidential history. Gingrich has taken to listing his first-day proposals during recent stump speeches, but he promised to take it a step further when he spoke last night. He promised to release a new Contract With America during his non-concession speech— "a personal one between me and you"—that would detail his plans once he enters office. "We're going to put this together in a way that you will be able to see in writing with my signature, and you'll be able to hold me accountable," Gingrich said.
Last night’s victory speech was familiar terrain for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Instead of asserting his conservative credentials or swiping at his Republican rivals, Romney focused his fire on Obama, with an extended attack on his leadership. “Mr. President, you were elected to lead, you chose to follow, and now it’s time for you to get out of the way," Romney said.
ORLANDO, FLORIDA—Newt Gingrich didn't look broken when he stepped up to the podium at the Rosen Centre Hotel's Grand Ballroom last night. "Everybody here has been so positive in every part of the state," he said after ticking off a laundry list of thank-yous. While the event was billed as a "Newt 2012 Victory Party," there was little reason to celebrate. The major networks had all called the Florida primary for Mitt Romney shortly after polls in the western panhandle closed at 8 p.m. But Gingrich—who ended the night with 32 percent of the vote—took the stage with blustery confidence.
Mitt Romney and the Republican elite unleashed their full arsenal against Newt Gingrich in Florida—and it paid off big. In a near-total reversal of the results in South Carolina ten days earlier, the former Massachusetts governor won an emphatic, double-digit victory on Tuesday.
CELEBRATION, FLORIDA—A candidate's election-day schedule can sometimes be as good a predictor of the results as polling. This is the case with Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich on Florida primary day. Romney, whom polls forecast will walk away with a large victory today, hosted an early morning rally in Tampa, then took the afternoon off. Gingrich, on the other hand, kept his day packed, crisscrossing central Florida to try to scrounge up extra votes.
If you’ve been listening to the pundits, you might think that the only open question in Florida tonight is whether Mitt Romney will croon America the Beautiful in his victory speech. After that, it’ll be a rose-pedal path to the nomination for the man who establishment-bombed and super PAC-ed Newt Gingrich to death in the Sunshine State.
In the good old days—I think this lasted until September 11, 2001, but I could be mistaken—political events of all sorts didn't begin with a series of opportunities for both speakers and attendees to make sure everyone understood that they are, in fact, in favor of America. Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy didn't start their debates with the Pledge of Allegiance. Candidates didn't feel the need to stand with hand on heart for the Star Spangled Banner at all 12 campaign events they do every day. And we were spared horror shows like this:
Jewish Americans have been a reliable Democratic bloc for much of U.S. electoral history. However, recent numbers from the Pew Research Center hint at a potential demographic shift in voting patterns. Barack Obama’s hold on the Jewish vote is shrinking—since 2009, Jewish Democratic affiliation has dropped nearly 10 percent, according to surveys by the American Jewish Committee. However, Republicans aren’t reaping the benefits— Jewish affiliation with the Republican Party has increased by only 1 percent. Instead, Jewish voters are heading to the middle ground of independents—along with a record number of other voters, as shown in a recent Gallup Poll.
ORLANDO, FLORIDA—Newt Gingrich often rails against the establishment elites who have conspired to sink his campaign. Sometimes it is Mitt Romney; others times he targets the liberals (an unlikely tag-team combination), but there is always someone to blame other than himself. I heard a new formulation of this theory at his "Crossing the Finish Line Rally" in Orlando last night. The event, held on the final eve before the primary, was intended as a pre-victory rally of sorts but took a much more subdued tone, as Gingrich's standing in the polls has evaporated over the past week. But angry Gingrich was in true form, lashing out at his opponent's vast wealth and the conspiracy to prevent Gingrich from gaining power:
Last week, when Mitt Romney claimed not to have seen an attack ad his campaign had produced, he was no doubt trying to blame his super PAC, Restore Our Future, for coming up with it. Whether or not the former Massachusetts governor was being truthful—one can imagine that, in a fast-moving campaign, candidates only passively approve the messages their surrogates put out—the incident underscored the way super PACs, which are barred from coordinating directly with the candidates they are supporting, have come to dominate the political landscape.
If Newt Gingrich ends up losing Florida tomorrow—as polls now agree he will—and ultimately loses the GOP nomination, you could hear the most important reason in just a few words he uttered in a Tampa suburb on Sunday. The former House speaker stepped out of a church service at the delightfully named Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church and opened fire on Mitt Romney as a “pro-abortion, pro gun-control, pro-tax increase moderate from Massachusetts” who had “carpet-bombed” his way to a lead in the Florida polls. That wasn’t the problematic part.
TAMPA, FLORIDA—Newt Gingrich yesterday laid out an ambitious plan for his first 24 hours, speaking before a geriatric crowd in the Villages. His first day in office would include signing a repeal of three separate bills—because of course the weight of his victory would compel Congress to work past their differences for his grandiose vision—and a series of executive orders. He upped the ante on Monday in Tampa, adding even more items to this already-busy hypothetical agenda.
LUTZ, FLORIDA— On the last Sunday before the Florida primary, Newt Gingrich bowed his head at Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church, a megachurch in a suburb north of Tampa. As the remaining Republican candidates scramble to reach as many voters as humanly possible before Tuesday's all-important primary, every chance to preen before a captive audience is a golden opportunity. And no audience is more glued to their seats than devout Christians on a Sunday.
Talk to Newt Gingrich's supporters in Florida, and you'll likely hear someone bemoan the negative tone of the presidential campaign. They're sick of the attacks, both against Gingrich by the super PACs and Romney himself, but some also say they dislike the idea of negativity in general, even when it's done by their preferred candidate.
Peg Bradley was "infuriated" when I spoke with her after a Mitt Romney rally on the Space Coast last Friday. In her view, Romney and Gingrich are ripping apart the Republican Party with their "divisive" attacks both "twisting the other one's record." She wanted to hear what Romney had to say in person but considered her vote pretty much decided. "Because Romney's super PAC started it all, I'm voting Gingrich."
Over at The Washington Post, op-ed editor Fred Hiatt is worried that the political world has stopped being concerned with the federal debt and is instead focused on pet programs:
Mitt Romney would extend all the Bush tax cuts and cut trillions more besides—eliminating taxes on investment income for most Americans, reducing the corporate tax, getting rid of the inheritance tax and more. How would he afford this? Please don’t ask.