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The New Romney Firewall

On to Florida.

Jan 30, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 19 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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For one thing, Romney has been leading in Florida polls by some 20 points over the course of the early voting efforts, meaning a built-in lead if the support of actual voters mirrors those polls. And Romney advisers believe that the fact that those early voters have gotten disproportionate attention from their campaign means that margin is likely much larger. One Romney adviser told me that it’s possible Romney will be halfway toward meeting his total vote goal before polls open on January 31.

All of this early voting has taken place while Romney has had Florida airwaves virtually to himself. He has been advertising heavily in all 10 of Florida’s major media markets, using three English-language ads and one in Spanish. The first Romney ad went up in the state on January 3—the date of the Iowa caucuses—meaning that Romney will have been on the air in Florida for nearly a month by the time polls open. The English-language ads include a short biographical sketch, an ad that highlights the moral responsibility of addressing the national debt, and another touting Romney’s business record. The Spanish-language ad, narrated by Romney’s son Craig, touts his support in the Cuban-American community.

Even with these substantial advantages, the events of the past week have changed the race. Gingrich had been saying that South Carolina would end his campaign if he didn’t win there. “If Romney can win South Carolina, he’s probably going to be the nominee. This is his big test,” Gingrich told NBC’s Chuck Todd on January 11. “He has so much money that if he also has the advantage of momentum, it’s going to be very hard to stop him.”

By week’s end he had abandoned that tack entirely. On January 20, top Gingrich adviser Kevin Kellems told The Weekly Standard that his candidate plans to stay in the race through the convention regardless of the outcome in South Carolina. “He believes he is emerging as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney and that Governor Romney’s campaign is showing real signs of being off-balance and nervous, and there must be a reason for it,” said Kellems. “Newt doesn’t think in terms of absolute marks on the primary calendar—he thinks in terms of why his bold conservative approach can eventually prevail over a timid moderate.” A week is an eternity in a presidential campaign—especially last week.

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.

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