Mitt Romney decisively trounced Newt Gingrich in Tuesday's Florida Republican primary battle, but the spin war is still raging furiously. The Romney camp insists that Mitt simply out-debated Gingrich and successfully tied his lobbying for Freddie Mac to Florida's foreclosure crisis. Gingrich, on the other hand, maintains that Romney bought the election with the $15.4 million he and his allied super PAC spent blanketing Florida with anti-Gingrich attack ads. (Romney spent $19.94 per vote, Gingrich $6.38.) Romney hauled in $12 million from the financial services industry last year, versus $460,000 for Gingrich, and Newt says voters won't just let "Wall Street and Mitt Romney buy the election.... It will be people power vs. Goldman Sachs and Mitt Romney." Is Gingrich just making excuses for his decisive defeat, or is Romney really "buying" the GOP nomination?
Romney is buying the election: Gingrich was able to win South Carolina because he tickles "a certain part of the Republican id" and appeals to voters who can't stand Romney, says Alex MacGillis in The New Republic. But he also won because "Romney did not bring down the hammer" in the Palmetto State. Mitt made up for that in Florida, outspending Gingrich 5-to-1 on a flurry of negative ads, and that made all the difference: Gingrich got "quashed by Romney's money. Period."
"Newtonian theory, right and wrong"
Money won't save Mitt in November: "If you're a straitlaced grown-up with money to burn, burying Newt Gingrich shouldn't be that hard," or that expensive, says Jonah Goldberg at National Review. Gingrich supplied "endless fodder" for attacks, and the big reason conservatives aren't sold on Romney is the nagging fear that "he's simply not a good enough politician" to take advantage. "I'd be fine with Romney crushing Obama with negative ads, if that was remotely possible." But remember, unlike Newt, Obama will have the cash to fight back.
"What is wrong with this guy?"
Either way, Romney's Florida win was costly: Give Romney credit for executing a textbook campaign-saving win in Florida, says E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post. But "eviscerating Gingrich" came at a price. Democrats will surely pick up on Gingrich's "Jacksonian riff" about "people power" defeating Romney's Wall Street "money power," and Republicans are dispirited about the relentless negativity. Romney lost a great chance to "build his image in a key swing state" by not spending more of that $15.4 million on "positive advertising about himself."
"Mitt Romney won in Florida but lost overall"
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