TAMPA, Fla. — Coming off a decisive loss to Newt Gingrich in South Carolina, Mitt Romney needed to do three things to win the Florida primary: 1) attack Gingrich with a level of ferocity not yet seen in the already-contentious Republican presidential campaign; 2) raise the level of his performance in debate; and 3) improve his on-the-stump message to give voters more substance and fewer platitudes.
For his part, Gingrich had two must-dos: 1) deal with Romney’s attacks in a calmer, more seasoned way than Gingrich handled the last Romney barrage, during the campaign in Iowa; and 2) keep up the solid message he rode to victory in South Carolina.
Over the past week in Florida, Romney did nearly everything right; his ads hit hard and his debate performance was dominating, even if he improved only marginally on the stump. And Gingrich did nearly everything wrong. The result was a decisive 14-point victory for Romney, who now has two primary victories to Gingrich’s one.
First, the attacks. When Gingrich complained that he had been carpet bombed by Romney, he was right. Romney and his allies spent about $15 million on ads in Florida — perhaps three times Gingrich’s total — on an almost entirely negative campaign. That’s no exaggeration; on Tuesday afternoon, afternoon, ABC News’ Jonathan Karl reported that, “The only positive Romney ad aired over the past week was single Spanish-language radio ad.” Indeed, 68 percent of all ads aired in Florida were Romney attacks on Gingrich.
Gingrich did not learn the lesson of Romney’s first wave of attacks against him. At that time, Gingrich reacted angrily and publicly, complaining constantly and accusing Romney of lying. Voters in New Hampshire who were once open to Gingrich’s candidacy turned away from him, saying his hot-tempered response to the ads — rather than the ads themselves — just turned them off. (See Why Gingrich Tanked from January 7.)
Read More at The Washington Examiner By Byron York, The Washington Examiner