As is the norm for Florida, the Sunshine State has again made electoral history. For the first time, the Republican winner of the South Carolina primary, lost the Florida primary. What it means in the long term is uncertain, but what it means in the short term is quite apparent. Nationally, Republicans have no real clear favorite for President yet.
Still, Mitt Romney’s win was significant and he deserve credit for orchestrating it. He spent $17 million to do it, but he did it and in the end, especially with 50 delegates now in his column, that is all that matters. However, while Romney once again becomes the frontrunner for the nomination, you will have to forgive me if do not declare this race over yet.
With little more than 5% of the delegates allocated so far, there is no denying that the race is not over yet, but it was made even more obvious to me after hearing Romney deliver his victory speech, and after Gingrich and Santorum gave their concession speeches.
In his speech, Mitt Romney rose to the occasion and sounded enthusiastic, but humble, and most of all, he sounded presidential. He delivered a speech that allowed people to truly begin to get comfortable with the idea of him being the candidate who can take the fight to President Barack Obama and beat him. He didn’t seal the deal, but his Florida victory speech helped make people more willing to accept the now almost inevitability of his being nominated for president. And now back in the frontrunner position, Romney offered not only a brief glimpse of the potential that exists in his carrying the Republican banner, he even took some steps to put the ugliness of the intraparty battle for the nomination behind him by eloquently making the point that “a competitive primary does not divide us, it prepares us.”
But in his facing the fact that he came in second place to Romney with at least 15% less of the vote than Romney, Newt Gingrich offered a speech which oozed of defiance and held a true thirst for not just beating Barack Obama, but for bringing about the type of reforms that Americans want, but as of late, have not often come to see in either Republicans or Democrats. He also provided some of the best reasons for his candidacy to date.
While limiting his negative attacks to calling Romney a Massachusetts moderate, Newt introduced what was seemingly a very heartfelt, personal contract with the American people, a spin on the now famous 1994 Contract With America that he spearheaded and guided through Congress.
Newt’s personal contract consists of two parts. The first part is conditional and it requires that the people elect conservatives to Congress. If they do that, Newt promises that before he takes office, he will request that on January 3rd, 2013, the new Congress stays in session and immediately repeals Obamacare, Dodd-Franks, and Sarbanes Oxley, three bills that are being viewed as among the most detrimental legislative initiatives effecting our economy. Gingrich vows that if the American people elect strong conservative majorities to Congress, those three measures can be repealed by Congress and on the day of his inauguration, he will sign the legislation to rid us of those massive government burdens. The problem there is that unless it is veto proof majority, President Obama will have the opportunity to veto it before Gingrich has the opportunity to sign it. So Newt might want to hold back on his request for january 3rd vote on those issues.
The rest of Newt’s personal contract is a promise to promptly enact a series of constitutional executive orders that will consist of immediately abolishing the existence of all White House czars, an immediate order to commence construction of the Keystone Pipeline project, an executive order opening the American embassy in Jerusalem and essentially acknowledging that divided city as Israel’s capital, another executive order which would reinstate the Reagan policy that did not allow federal money to fund any abortions, anywhere in the world, and last but not least, he promised to enact an order that repeals any and all of the anti-religious acts enacted by the Obama Administration in what Newt described as the President’s war on religion.
Newt’s speech was far from a concession speech, but what it did do was offer voters some good reasons for why Newt should not give up. With a room full of supporters waving signs that reminded voters that there are 46 more states which have yet to vote, Newt demonstrated that he still has what it takes to continue contesting this election.
The other speech of note came from third place finisher Senator Rick Santorum.
Even though Santorum placed a very distant third with only 13% of the vote in Florida, his speech actually provided a good rationale for his own continued participation in this race.
Knowing full well that he was not going to have a strong showing in Florida, Santorum elected to make his primary night remarks from Nevada, where he is campaigning in advance of that state’s Caucus which takes place this Saturday.
Taking advantage of the very rarely traveled high road in their primary contest, Santorum exploited the bitter battle between Romney and Gingrich by looking like the adult in the room who had his eye on the real prize…….defeating President Obama.
He stated that he was not going to criticize the personal and public successes achieved by both Gingrich and Romney as they have done to one another. Instead he declared that republicans deserve better, and that he was going to focus on the issues important to the American people. However, Santorum did argue that Newt failed at taking the momentum he had coming out South Carolina and converting it in to establishing himself as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. According to Santorum, Newt proved to make himself the issue and the American people do not need a President who is the issue, but rather a President who can address the issues and solve the problems surrounding them.
All three speeches were actually quite good and they all provided a solid foundation and legitimate reasons for this nomination contest to remain competitive. The problem is that Santorum and Gingrich will still have to find the resources it takes to convince voters that it really isn’t over. If Newt can finally stick to the themes he struck in his speech in Florida, themes based on his being the anti-establishment candidate and a true conservative leader capable of achieving very real and very bold reforms, he can survive long enough to see another victory, but it may not happen for another month or more and the longer he goes without a victory, the harder it will be for him to achieve one.
Right now, the only thing we can be certain of is that Mitt Romney is the one in the catbird seat tonight. The real problem I see here though is that Romney is still the candidate which for numerous reasons, many Republicans seem to be settling for. Such uninspired support makes it quite possible for someone like Newt to turn things around by actually inspiring people and causing voters say, you know what? I don’t have to settle for Mitt. We can do better.”
Until Mitt Romney is willing to stop playing it safe, and proves that he too can be a bold leader, he will remain vulnerable to being overshadowed by the boldness of Newt Gingrich’s vision and red meat agenda. For Mitt it is now a judgement call and a gamble. Does he continue to play it safe and rely on his giant campaign war chest to suppress the amount of support Gingrich and risk the possibility of Newt turning things around again? Or does he step out of his safety zone and make an attempt to prove that he is more than just a wealthy Republican establishment candidate?
My experience with Romney leads me to believe that he will continue to play it safe with the expectation that Newt will be do just the opposite and a loss it all by taking one too many risks.
On a final note, yes I know that I did not mention Ron Paul and that I did not include his concession speech. And no it is not because I am afraid that if I give him any ink, people will flock to his side and elect him President. The reason I did not include Ron Paul is because he has yet to become a significant factor in this election and because he said absolutely nothing new in his speech following his single digit, last place showing in Florida.