Countdown to Florida: The Establishment Strikes Back
ORLANDO, FL - With just under 36 hours to go before polls officially open in Florida, Mitt Romney has widened his lead over Newt Gingrich by a double digit margin. The new numbers from the NBC/Marist poll, which were released Sunday, show the former Massachusetts governor with a 15 point lead over the former Speaker of the House.
Romney's wide lead is due in part to the endless ads he's been running in the state attacking Gingrich's ties to Freddie and Fannie Mac, as well as his connection with Ronald Reagan. He's outspent Gingrich on the airwaves 5 to 1 and 15 to 1 in the state overall.
So what has helped the Mitt surge after a disappointing loss in South Carolina?
For one, I think Florida is a natural fit for Romney. It's more moderate than South Carolina and the state's massive size and diverse population favors campaigns with organization and money, both of which Romney has in spades.
I also believe Mitt learned another valuable lesson from South Carolina -- not to underestimate a Newt comeback. Gingrich has proven to be one of the most resilient campaigners in recent memory. How many times have we thought his campaign was left for dead, only to see him rebound with astonishing victories? Romney now knows that he needs a knockout and he has shown no signs of letting Newt off the rope. The campaign has been sending surrogates to Gingrich events and making themselves available to the media to dispel the Speaker's achievements. The tactic has caused several skirmishes between campaign staff according to reports.
Newt also hasn't been helping himself. After dominating the South Carolina debates, the former Speaker has committed a series of unforced errors and has appeared almost flat-footed onstage. In a state which leads the country in unemployment and foreclosures, the Speaker has found himself talking about moon colonies and his ties to Ronald Reagan. It will be interesting to see if Newt can get back to his economic message in the final hours before voting.
If Newt has a chance to pulling a Florida victory out of his hat, it will be because of the Tea Party (many of which are working off-the-radar). Though the mainstream media has written off the Tea Party as dead, conservative activists will play a large part in the elections Tuesday. Romney has all but refused to meet with Tea Party activists and I'm sure many of them don't take kindly to the news that a Romney staffer is behind efforts to redistrict Congressman Allen West out of office.
Do you think that Gingrich will be able to make it close? Or has Darth Romney won the day?
Don't forget to enter your predictions into PJ Media's Nostradamus contest here. You could also end up a winner Tuesday night.