Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Dead heat in Florida ahead of debate"

English: Newt GingrichImage via Wikipedia
That's not the headline you want to see if you're Mitt Romney and guy you're within the margin of error of and about to debate is Newt Gingrich.

A lot of people, especially pundits, have been giving themselves whiplash from watching the polls jump around this campaign season.

Rest that neck. Put on a cervical collar and stick with me here. I predicted Newt would be the nominee right after Iowa. I predicted his performance, and Romney's, in South Carolina to within 2 points each. And I'm sticking by my Florida prediction:

Gingrich: 42%
Romney: 33%
Santorum: 13%
Paul 12%

And frankly I think I may be over-predicting Santorum at Gingrich's expense, and under-estimating Paul a bit.

Here's why Gingrich is going to pull off a clear win in Florida:

  • The debate: When Romney comes under attack, he falls to pieces. He stutters, he stammers, he looks evasive, he comes off as distinctly un-"presidential." When Gingrich comes under attack, he goes on the offensive and doesn't ease up until the floor is soaked in his opponents' blood. Romney will take a 5-10% hit from tomorrow's debate. Gingrich will get a 5-10% bump.
  • Another Adelson soft money check is fueling a $6 million Newt SuperPAC media offensive between now and the primary. That's not as much money as Mitt's spending, but it's enough.
  • Romney is not as belligerently pro-Israel as Gingrich (Florida has the largest Jewish community of any southern state, and it is politically organized).
  • Romney is not as belligerently anti-Castro as Gingrich (Florida has the largest Cuban exile community of any state, and it is politically organized).
  • Florida has a large population of immigrants and first-generation Americans. Gingrich has aggressively positioned himself as the least insanely anti-freedom Republican candidate on immigration policy.
  • The top two religious demographics in Florida are Roman Catholics (Gingrich and Santorum are Catholic) and evangelical Christians (many, if not most, of whom distrust Romney's religion, Mormonism).
The worse news for Romney is that even if I'm wrong, he's still probably screwed. He doesn't just need to win Florida, he needs to break out a major ass-whipping.

He entered the GOP nomination race as the prohibitive front-runner. He's now won only one of three primaries/caucuses, and that one the smallest, and he only pulled 40% of the vote there when he should have easily cruised past 50%. He's limping. He's bleeding. Barely squeaking by is not going to be enough to get him back in this race for real.

Gingrich, on the other hand, came from double digits back to win in South Carolina, and has now pulled up by double digits to contest a state that was supposed to be a Romney cakewalk. He's got the momentum of a runaway truck. As everyone who's contested an election with him since 1976 can attest, he is not someone you want to see bearing down on you in this kind of fight.

So, I still say Gingrich by nine points, give or take two. But, as always, I could be wrong.

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