“I think this underscores the fact that the president is, is really out of touch with what’s happening in America, what’s happening here in Florida,” Romney said during a news conference with reporters.
“I’m here to tell the American people that if I’m the nominee of the Republican Party, I will go aggressively after the president’s failed record.”
As Florida’s primary voters head to the polls, Romney exuded the confidence of a man who knows he’s back on top as he spoke to reporters outside his state headquarters in Tampa, while a few dozen volunteers behind him chanted, “We need Mitt.” “Today is the most important thing in the world to me,” Romney said, noting the diversity of the Sunshine State’s electorate, which he called a microcosm for the nation. “Doing well in Florida is also a pretty good indication of your prospects nationally.”
Part of doing well in Florida has meant hitting the airwaves with millions of dollars of ads, mostly attacking Newt Gingrich. Both candidates have been going after each other with escalating vitriol, but Romney’s deep-pocketed operation, combined with the support of super-PACs, has helped him trounce his rival in the air wars. Various estimates have Romney and his supporters outspending Gingrich’s camp by as much as 5 to 1.
“If we’re successful here, it will be pretty clear that when attacked, you have to respond,” Romney said when asked what lessons from his Florida rebound he would take to future states. “You can’t let charges go unanswered.”
Gingrich has attempted to turn his financial disadvantage into a populist advantage, painting himself as an underdog bucking the elitist establishment while getting hit with unfair and dishonest attacks by Romney and his allies. But Romney said Tuesday that while it would be wonderful for campaigns to be only positive, that isn’t reality, saying what applies to him should apply to Gingrich as well.
“You really can’t whine about negative campaigning when you’ve launched a very negative campaign in South Carolina,” Romney said, “and when the people of Florida looked at the different campaigns and concluded that [Gingrich’s] was the most negative.”
Romney maintained that he had been “vastly outspent with negative ads attacking me” in South Carolina. But Romney and political action committees supporting him outspent all of his rivals in the Palmetto State, according to an analysis reported by Adweek and based on Kantar Media’s CMAG tracking data.
Romney is poised for a wide-margin win Tuesday in Florida over Gingrich, his top rival. Less than two weeks ago, Romney emerged bruised from a stinging defeat by Gingrich in South Carolina, but the former Massachusetts governor is now on top. A Suffolk University poll released Monday put Romney 20 points ahead of Gingrich in Florida, and polls show he’s closing in on Gingrich nationally as well.
Romney’s campaign logistics Tuesday also reflected his new-found confidence. His one primary-day event — a swing by his headquarters to greet volunteers — contrasted with the four campaign stops that Gingrich made. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, who round out the four candidates still in the contest, aren’t in Florida for primary day.
Romney has also regained the momentum behind his presidential bid, and is looking ahead to a calendar of upcoming states that are undoubtedly friendly territory for him — Nevada, Michigan and Missouri.
“This could be a long process,” Romney acknowledged. “We have the time and the calendar and the team and the organization to, I believe, get the delegates necessary to be the nominee.”