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Even an endorsement from former candidate and fellow adulterer Herman Cain couldn’t stem the momentum shift to Romney as Gingrich struggled to stop the defections.
Said Gingrich on Fox News Sunday:
He has a basic policy of carpet-bombing his opponent. I give Gov. Romney’s campaign due respect for the sheer volume of negativity that they use and the sheer amount of money they raise on Wall Street.
Romney responded by suggesting Gingrich look at himself in the mirror before throwing stones.
My own view is that the reason Speaker Gingrich has been having a hard time in Florida is the people of Florida have watched the debates and listened to the speaker, have listen3ed to the other candidates, and have said “You know what? Mitt Romney’s the guy we’re gonna support.”
Romney’s return to the top of the polls is a sharp reversal of the momentum that Gingrich expected to carry over from his upset win in the South Carolina primary. A poor debate performance and renewed focus on the former Speaker’s philandering and ethics problems have brought his campaign back to political reality.
“Voters are taking a harder look at Gingrich and realize he is a flawed choice,” GOP strategist Alan Holcomb tells Capitol Hill Blue. Holcomb, who is not aligned with any of the remaining four candidates in the GOP field, says Gingrich can’t become the conservative alternative to Romney.
“The Speaker has too much baggage, too many skeletons and too many ‘shoot from the lip’ moments. He plays well with the fringe but that’s not enough to carry the day, ” Holcomb says.
“Time is not Gingrich’s friend,” says conservative columnist George Will. “The more time he has the more he talks and the more he talks the more he gets into trouble.”
With one day to go, polls show Romney leading in every key demographic in Florida, including seniors and Hispanics.
The polls also deliver bad news for the GOP’s other two remaining candidates: former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Santorum is a distant third and Paul brings up the rear. Santorum canceled his weekend campaign schedule to be in Pennsylvania with his sick daughter and Paul, his campaign foundering, has abandoned Florida to concentrate on upcoming caucus states.
“Santorum will be out before much longer,” Holcomb says. “Paul has once again become the Australia of the primary season. Everybody knows he’s down there but nobody really cares all that much.”