Saturday, January 28, 2012

Air War 'Grinding Newt Down'

At Los Angeles Times, "Mitt Romney leading polls in Florida":

After months of gyrating front-runners and inconclusive voter tests, a victory by Mitt Romney in the looming Florida primary would send the 2012 campaign down a well-worn path — pointing the most established GOP contender toward a highly competitive race against President Obama in the fall election.

If Newt Gingrich wins, the contours of the battle would be radically different: a prolonged intraparty struggle unlike any the GOP has seen in decades, pitting the former House speaker as an insurgent force against many present and former elected officials he once led, with unpredictable consequences in November if he is the nominee.

Romney has, for now at least, pulled ahead of Gingrich in the roller-coaster campaign for Florida. An opinion survey of Florida Republicans, released Friday by Quinnipiac University, showed Romney leading Gingrich by nine points, 38% to 29%. Rep. Ron Paul and former Sen. Rick Santorum were far back, at 14% and 12%, respectively.

"I think if Romney wins this, it's over for Newt," said John McLaughlin, a veteran Republican pollster who is unaffiliated in the presidential campaign. Looking ahead, Romney has the advantage in the Feb. 4 Nevada caucuses and other, largely symbolic contests next month, including a nonbinding Feb. 7 primary in Missouri, where Gingrich failed to qualify for the ballot.

The statewide poll, conducted Tuesday through Thursday, was the latest indication that Gingrich's surge after his Jan. 21 win in the South Carolina primary had evaporated in this week's summerlike heat. The same survey had Gingrich ahead by six points just after South Carolina voted.

Romney's superior performances in two Florida debates blunted Gingrich's efforts to build on his recent primary success. Earlier nationally televised forums had been crucial to Gingrich's ability to counter Romney's edge in campaign money and organization.

At the same time, Romney and his supporters are using overwhelming force to gain the upper hand in the Florida air war, unleashing a barrage of negative ads that are "just grinding Newt down," McLaughlin said. Members of Congress and other forces in the GOP establishment have fanned out across the state to criticize Gingrich and boost Romney.
More at the link.

And see also the New York Times, "Romney Goes on Offensive in Florida, Bolstered by Debate Performance."

And at Quinnipiac, "Romney Pulls Ahead In See-Saw Florida GOP Primary, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Men Shift From Gingrich to Romney."

On Nevada, check CBS News Las Vegas, "TV Ad War Heating Up Before Nevada’s GOP Caucus."