Mitt Romney sure knows how to celebrate a triumph. This morning, on his victory lap after thumping Newt Gingrich in the Florida primary, he spoke with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and volunteered the following: “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net out there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.” Noting this might “sound odd” to millions of poor Americans, O’Brien kindly threw the former Massachusetts governor a lifeline to explain himself. He proceeded to make matters worse: “There’s no question: It’s not good being poor,” he said, foot traveling ever nearer mouth. “You can focus on the very rich; it’s not my focus.
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.
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.
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.
Has Newt Gingrich floundered in Florida because he doesn’t understand his own appeal to GOP voters? In South Carolina, the former house speaker hit upon an anti-elite message that goes straight to the heart of the Tea Party—and the political moment. It was nothing new: the kind of silent-majority red meat that white conservatives have eagerly consumed since the days of Wallace and Nixon (not to mention Bush and Palin). But it was a message tuned to a time when Americans are increasingly cognizant of wealth disparities, and aware that elites have cornered the market on economic opportunity.