Archives: A defeat in Florida would be disastrous for Romney

Originally published in January 2012
Simon Nguyen

Mitt Romney can’t afford a defeat in Florida. The GOP frontrunner has led the polls in the Sunshine State since the start of the race. Yet, the latest Rasmussen survey shows Newt Gingrich surging past Romney in Florida. The former House Speaker is riding a wave of momentum following his dominant win in South Carolina. Florida has become a crucial state for Romney to thwart Gingrich’s momentum.

The demographics of Florida theoretically favor Romney. Unlike South Carolina, which is dominated by social conservatives, Florida is a varied state with an even share of moderates and conservatives. Since the former Massachusetts governor has enjoyed strong support from moderate Republicans, he should have a higher vote ceiling in this state than in Iowa and South Carolina.

Moreover, Florida is much larger compared to the previous primary states. Romney’s rivals can’t just camp out in the state for an extended period, like what Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman had done in the previous states, and hope to swing votes their way. On the other hand, Romney’s seemingly limitless campaign funds will allow him to flood Florida’s airwaves and mailboxes with negative ads attacking his rivals.

The diversity of Florida also plays into Romney’s hands, as support from local and community leaders is critical to drive like-minded GOP voters to the poll. Romney, who enjoys overwhelming support from the Republican establishment, should have an advantage over Gingrich and Santorum.

With all these advantages, the expectation has been that Romney would easily win Florida. Even with Gingrich’s resounding victory in South Carolina, the former Massachusetts governor is still expected to win the Sunshine State. However, the Real Clear Politics’ average of polls currently puts Gingrich seven percentage points ahead of Romney. Just a few weeks ago, Romney was leading in the state by a double-digit margin.

If Romney fails to win Florida, he will face serious questions regarding his electability. Why couldn’t he close the deal in a state he had so many advantages? At the same time, Gingrich will be able to further the momentum he gained from South Carolina beyond Florida and through Super Tuesday. He will also be able to stake claim to frontrunner status, which should help his fundraising. Florida is shaping to be a must-win state for Romney.

About the site