Newt Gingrich is limping out of Florida with no momentum, little money and not much to be happy about. After his substantial victory in South Carolina and visions of soaring to the moon, Newt has crashed back to earth. His supporters are pinning his loss on negative ads from the Romney side, but that argument is just sour grapes. The truth is that Newt hurt himself more than Romney did and very likely hurt the conservative cause in the process.
First, let’s dismiss the argument that negative ads are what sank Newt. That was true in Iowa. Conservative voters abandoned him and voted instead for Santorum. In New Hampshire without the attacks, the conservatives split fairly evenly between Gingrich and Santorum. In South Carolina, even with negative attacks, Newt won solidly. In Florida, Gingrich still won the conservatives – his voters did not run to Santorum as in Iowa. The negative ads didn’t bring Gingrich down. He secured his base, but it was a smaller base than in South Carolina. Hence, he lost.
His real weakness was an inability to steal moderates from Romney. He only has himself to blame for that. His debate attacks were exposed as little more than stunts and his boasts exploded like over-inflated balloons. His image as a man with great knowledge and serious solutions backed by past experience suffered greatly. When he was caught with flagrantly incorrect ‘facts’ during the debates, it weakened trust in his criticisms of Romney. When his big spending promises in each State he’s campaigned in were called out during the debates, it weakened confidence in his ability to have real solutions. When his great claim to fame of balancing the budget was admitted to be false because it was done by robbing Social Security, it undermined his claim to be the experienced fixer the country needs. Gingrich didn’t just have some bad debates, he collapsed during them. His strong supporters may not see that nor admit it, but those who are not Newties were able to see it and the exit polls confirm it.
The real disservice Newt did in Florida was convince people that he is the only conservative who can beat Mitt. As a result, when Newt started to implode only voters who were shaky for Mitt stayed with him rather than go with another candidate. The race was viewed as being between Mitt or Newt and undecided voters found themselves with little choice than to support Mitt under the circumstances. Even if you add together the Gingrich and Santorum votes, Mitt still wins. That isn’t because of negative attack ads on Newt, but rather the inability of Santorum to gain undecided voters because they felt the only candidates who could win in November were Mitt and Newt. That two man view is something only Newt has been pushing and for which he must take the blame when his campaign stumbles resulted in an overall conservative loss.
Newt will likely double-down on his themes. He’ll say that he’s the only conservative that stands a chance. He’ll say that only he has the experience needed. He’ll whine about negative attacks. He’ll launch new attacks of his own which will likely be as weakly supported as his most recent ones in Florida that backfired. As I wrote after his loss in Iowa when he lost his temper and started his attacks on capitalism, Newt is his own worst enemy and his own undoing.
46 States to go…or so he says.
Filed under: About the Candidates, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum Tagged: | 2012, campaign 2012, debate, debate performance, exit polls, florida, Florida presidential primary, GOP, lies, Mitt Romney, moon base, Newt Gingrich, political campaigns, polls, President, presidential election, Primary, republican nomination, republican primary, Rick Santorum, self-destruction, tantrum, temper, weakness, White House 2012