The weekend polling numbers represent a high water mark for the former Speaker after his thumping of Romney in South Carolina. But as my column in today’s Washington Examiner points out, the storyline changed every 48 hours during the ten day run-up to Saturday’s vote. The next eight days will be just as explosive.
Beginning with this story which should give every Tea Party supporter something to chew on.
The Washington Examiner’s Conn Carroll notes that the “American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, an arm of the AFL-CIO, has bought $800,000 worth of television time to run the above ad attacking Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain. The ad will run throughout the state of Florida through the primary on January 31st.”
What that ad buy telegraphs is that Big Labor wants to try and defeat Romney in Florida so their in-the-pocket president won’t have to run against his strongest opponent in the fall.
Expect Romney to point out tonight that Big Labor is supporting Newt in Florida even as they attack Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Expect Newt as well as Big Labor and all the other pro-Obama SuperPacs to grab the Romney tax returns and exploit every line of them to the full extent possible.
Expect Romney surrogates to demand to see the contract that Newt had with Freddie and Fannie and for the housing collapse be the center-piece of the next week. Expect Newt to find the failed Bain investment in Florida as a backdrop.
All to the good. If Romney cannot battle against this combination of factors right now, he will be hard pressed to do so in the fall. Gingrich is testing him and his staff and message of the need to make a U-Turn on entitlements, spending, defense cuts.
Rick Santorum has to make his case tonight, and he must make it against Newt as the alternative to Romney. Newt won by manufacturing confrontations with Juan Williams and John King. Look for Santorum to do the same tonight.
UPDATE: An email from an old friend:
I’ve enjoyed the analysis you’ve posted on your website and NRO. Unfortunately, I can’t help but think the GOP is heading for Niagara Falls if the Newt juggernaut picks up steam. I envision a Reagan-Mondale outcome if Newt is the nominee, only with the GOP on the losing side. And he would bring down the rest of the downstream ticket, big time.
I talked to [one of my relatives] over the weekend who, as you may know, now lives in South Carolina. He voted for Newt over the weekend. I asked him (very politely) why, and he said the country is going down the tubes, we need a big change, and “Newt would clean Obama’s clock in a debate.” Sadly, it seems like thinking people (and he is a very bright guy) have adopted this WWE mindset of the elections, and envision some kind of cage match grudge fight to the death between Obama and the Republican candidate in a debate with the whole country watching. I told him I doubt that Obama would agree to a series of debates the way that Romney and the other Republicans have, and besides he may be underestimating Obama’s ability on the debate podium to finesse his way out of Newt’s verbal bomb-throwing and make Gingrich look like the unreasonable one on the stage. He told me one of his sons-in-law told him almost exactly the same thing.
That said, I can’t help but feel that Romney and his campaign staff are like the four and five star generals who are fighting the last war. They hire all the right people, get all the right endorsements, have all the glitzy 59-point plans on their websites, but their candidate just doesn’t seem to have the ability to inspire voters. Newt has more personal and political baggage than Federal Express, runs a campaign on a shoestring, is more full of himself than a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float, yet he can get the crowds whooping and hollering to beat the band. He’s like the con-man in The Music Man. In fact, I’ve concluded for years now Newt is the Republican version of Bill Clinton, only without the charm. And what happened to the ‘value voters’ who were outraged about Clinton’s behavior in the 90’s? I guess it just doesn’t matter when he’s your [guy].
Ugh; I don’t have a good feeling.