As I sat up watching the results come in from the Florida primary last evening, two things came to mind once the result was called for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Firstly, was I surprised by the result or margin of victory? No! The second question is more crucial, what does Mitt Romney stand for?
Dealing with the first question, Romney’s victory in the Florida Republican presidential primary was inevitable and has got him his front runner status back for now. The manner of his victory though should concern Republican supporters going forward. In order to win any general election, Romney or any GOP Nominee will need to win over independent voters. A recent Gallup showed 40% of Americans defined themselves as independent voters compared to 27% who said they were Republicans and 31% who said they were Democrats.
Romney’s victories in New Hampshire and Florida and his second place finishes in Iowa and South Carolina have come on the back of some of the most vicious, and down right nasty attack ads in presidential campaign history. Romney has tried to hide behind the manner in which his campaign has been conducted, saying he has no influence or connection with his Super Pac in this campaign, technically and legally true.
Those pro-Romney supporters have tried to point to his two debate performances as the reason for his Florida victory. Yes, he did have improved performances against a somewhat timid Gingrich in those debates. The truth is Rick Santorum was the stand-out candidate in my view for both debates. Romney’s performances were better, but hardly outstanding or presidential winning performances.
The real other factor in this presidential primary season has been the change in party rules and campaign financing schemes with the arrival of the Super Pac machine. Romney, as I previously wrote, simply carpet bombed Gingrich under a barrage of bitter, nasty and out and out negative attack ads in Florida, like he did in Iowa. What the conservative media commentators won’t tell you is that Romney’s Florida victory came because he overwhelmingly won in all seven of the media markets. The results were much different outside those media markets with Gingrich’s appeal and support proving a lot more solid.
The stats reveal a staggering effort on his behalf with Romney’s campaign and the pro Romney Super PAC “Restore Our Future” outspending Gingrich and his supporting Super PAC by a 5 to 1 ratio in the week leading up to the Florida Republican primary election on Tuesday, this involved a total of 12,768 television ads. According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, 99% of them were attacks on Newt Gingrich. In the same period, Gingrich and his supporters bought just 210 TV ads. While the majority of them slammed Romney, some were positive advertisements for Gingrich.
Romney and his Super PAC combined to spend nearly $9.9 million on ads aimed at attacking Mr. Gingrich during the week that lead up to the Florida primary on Tuesday. CMAG concluded that, with 92% of the total TV ads going on the attack, the Florida primary set a new record for negativity. The total Florida spend was believed to be a combined total of $17.7 million for Romney versus $5.1 million combined for Gingrich.
I make no secret of my admiration for Gingrich, yes he is a controversial figure and has had personal issues in the past. The reason for my admiration of Gingrich, Santorum and indeed Ron Paul for that matter is that I can tell you what each man advocates, and where they stand in terms of economic policy, job creation, social values and foreign policy. This brings me to the second question, what does Mitt Romney stand for?
I’ve tried in recent months to see the appeal and unique quality that the GOP establishment have touted in Governor Romney, but I’ve simply failed to find it. I even tweeted asking my followers the question, what does Romney actually stand for? The silence spoke volumes. Romney may be championed by his supporters on a lot of fronts and maybe very justifiably so. However, as I’ve been saying for well over a year, this is the most crucial presidential election in over fifty years. Make no mistake, America’s economy and role in the world is very much under threat, and in very real danger of being lost forever.
On a personal level, Romney seems a decent and likeable enough person. He’s polished in his appearance, has a great family background and has been very successful as a businessman. All these credentials should be very appealing when looking for a candidate yet, I still find myself asking what does Romney stand for?
My big concern about Romney is that he’s great at attacking and deriding President Obama and the other candidates on their records in political life. What Romney won’t stand up and firmly say is this is what I stand for with real passion and conviction. Romney, regardless on what side of the political divide you come from, has a long and tailored record of changing his position on issues, and not being able to defend them strongly when challenged. Gingrich strategically in my view made a fatal flaw in attacking Romney on his business record in New Hampshire and it hurt him in the polls there. I don’t believe in knocking success or the role of capitalism. I do believe however that Gingrich made an error in not focussing on Romney’s record as Governor instead when he wanted to attack.
The Romney team are trying to establish their campaign around Romney being a successful businessman. We hear very little mention of him being a successful Governor of Massachusetts. This brings me to the question, if he isn’t championing and pointing to his record as Governor of Massachusetts everyday on the campaign trail, why do GOP supporters believe he will be able to deliver and perform as President of the United States. Romney will have to decide to run as Romney the successful Governor & businessman, not be selective in what he runs his campaign on. The Obama machine will not afford him that luxury should he emerge as the nominee.
Romney doesn’t under take many interviews, he avoids the Sunday political shows like the plague and when he is challenged in interviews, he has shown himself to be prickly. I don’t doubt the man’s abilities as a businessman, but I want more then rehearsed lines, staged interviews and someone who has won the nomination by simply buying their way to it with attack ads. I want steely conviction and a determined dog like spirit, someone who is prepared to lead and fight for the ordinary person on all levels.
The questions American’s and others should ask is the following, what is Romney’s vision for America and how does he intend to get us there? Simple.
If his vision and message is right, then there’s a second question, has Romney demonstrated that he has the ability to be outspent on a 5-1 ratio and attacked himself and win?. It is on these two questions that I believe the GOP and establishment need to be certain before they coronate Romney as would be nominee.
As President Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”.