Former Gov. Mitt Romney walked away from the Florida primary with a resounding victory of nearly 15 points over former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Former Senator Rick Santorum grabbed 13.3 percent of the vote.
Prior to this win, it seemed as though the wheels were coming to a halt for Romney. After a recall from an earlier Iowa victory and a devastating blow in South Carolina. For many candidates, these factors could have been rather detrimental. Certainly for Mitt Romney, the latter loss may have brought about painful comparisons to the 2000 John McCain campaign.
However, cutting his losses in South Carolina, the former Massachusetts governor realized that Florida had to be a must win.
Not only would victory look better, but the state’s winner-take-all issue is vital as well. To obtain this goal, Romney had to face up to one of the bitter realities of modern day campaigns: the negative attack.
When Romney began his quest for the presidency, he preferred to stump with the sense of optimism. He generally attempted to point to America’s greatest strengths and future potential.
When it would come down to criticism, it would be saved for President Obama. It sounded rather naive at times, but for the first couple of months it carried him forward.
Once Gingrich began to make a comeback, Romney realized he had to take further action. He moved beyond the issues, attacking the public past of Gingrich, questioning his tenure as Speaker of the House in the 1990s and the time he worked for Freddie Mac.
According to The New York Times, the Romney campaign aired an ad that referred to Gingrich making a profit from the housing crisis while other Floridians suffered.
Meanwhile, in the Gingrich camp, the mood remained somewhat mixed. Several, including the former Speaker of the House, went into the Florida primary with a sense of optimism. Gingrich began to imply that the Romney camp was beginning to run scared, according to The New York Times.
But as the week continued, it was Gingrich who seemed to be on the defensive. The first mistake came from an ad attacking Romney by portraying him as anti-immigrant, meant to appeal to Cuban Americans.
This was sharply criticized by Sen. Marco Rubio, the popular Cuban-American senator who remained neutral in the primary, “I didn’t think it was accurate.”
Then Gingrich slipped up in what should have been his specialty, a debate forum.
Addressing the current state of the space industry, he proposed that he would establish a colony on the moon during his presidency.
In response, Romney looked at his opponent and said that he would fire any advisor who proposed such a policy.
Romney’s change in approach, as well as increased spending, appear to be paying off. Recent polls showed him maintaining a steady lead in Florida leading up to the primary.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Romney’s support ranged across many areas and demographics.
He lead among Hispanics, veterans, men, women (largely put off by Gingrich’s personal life) and even has a slight edge on evangelical voters.
Certainly, Gingrich has hinted that he is willing to take his campaign to the convention, which hasn’t happened in the Republican Party since 1976.
Either way, it should be an interesting campaign, in the weeks and possible months to follow. One thing is for sure, no matter who wins, the party must strongly unite in order to take on the president in November.