Monday, January 30, 2012

 

Mitt's Premature Celebration

All Florida polls have Mitt Romney with a significant lead over Newt Gingrich heading into tomorrow's primary, with NBC/Marist showing a 15-point margin and Rasmussen at 16 points. For the Sunshine State, at least, it appears to be all over. However, on Sunday, Public Policy Polling came in with a survey showing a much more compact Romney lead -- 39-32 (Santorum and Paul are way back at 14 and 11, respectively). That can be considered an outlier, sure, except PPP (yes, a Democratic outfit) pretty much nailed the breadth of Newt's South Carolina win.

Even though it's still a lead, high single digits is still different from 15 and 16-point blowouts. Caution should still be shown. So, one wonders exactly what Romney's people were doing giving the equivalent of an early victory lap to The New York Times Sunday:

David Kochel, an adviser who arrived here from Iowa to oversee the pressure campaign, described the strategy as “let’s go rush the quarterback.” A team of Romney boosters started infiltrating nearly every Gingrich campaign stop to offer instant rebuttals. Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah showed up to challenge Mr. Gingrich’s record to reporters and at one point tangled with Mr. Gingrich’s press secretary as the cameras rolled. Bay Buchanan, a longtime conservative activist, worked on the Romney campaign’s behalf to win over voters and commentators.
[SKIP]
A team of some of the most fearsome researchers in the business, led by Mr. Romney’s campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, spent days dispensing negative information about Mr. Gingrich, much of it finding its way to the influential Drudge Report, which often serves as a guide for conservative talk radio and television assignment editors and to which Mr. Rhoades has close ties.
The effort hit a peak by Thursday, when the site was virtually taken over by headlines assailing Mr. Gingrich, whose advisers said they eventually gave up on trying to persuade the Drudge staff to spare them, acknowledging, in the words of one aide, that “very little can be done.”
The Romney team was also carefully tracking Mr. Gingrich’s every utterance for a potential opening. What an aide described as a “eureka moment” came just hours before the debate on Thursday night. At a Tea Party rally in the Central Florida town of Mount Dora that day, Mr. Gingrich had opened a new line of attack, noting that Mr. Romney had investments in funds that included shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage lenders.
Mr. Romney’s opposition-research team in Boston quickly dug into Mr. Gingrich’s own publicly disclosed holdings to find that he, too, had mutual fundsinvested in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The information was quickly fed to Mr. Romney during his private debate preparation session at a hotel in downtown Jacksonville.
When Mr. Romney delivered the attack against Mr. Gingrich that evening, Mr. Gingrich was left with no substantive response, a killer blow that helped keep Mr. Gingrich from commanding the debate stage as he had in South Carolina.

Wow. If Gingrich need anymore ammunition on his charge that Romney is the hardball candidate of insiders and borderline dirty campaigning, this article sure provides it. Personally, all's fair in love, war and politics (well, except for attacks on the family), but this sort of press access -- before the primary is actually over -- seems, well, not exactly wise.

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