Mitt Romney sent a clear message to Newt Gingrich during his victory speech following last night's Florida primary: The nomination is mine, and mine only.
After scoring a decisive victory (47% of the vote) against chief rival Gingrich, Romney is now painting himself as the inevitable nominee to battle Obama this November. In fact, Tuesday's real winner might be Romney's new debate coach Brett O'Donnell (he also groomed George W. Bush and John McCain) who helped Romney destroy Gingrich's South Carolina momentum. Romney's victory can also be explained by the slew of negative attack ads he ran against Gingrich (he spent a total of $15.3 million on ads in Florida alone). The ads are formed part of Romney's new strategy to deal with Gingrich: go negative and goad him to self-destruct.
But today, Stephanie Cutter, President Barack Obama's deputy campaign manager, argues that Romney's go-negative strategy may quickly backfire. In a four-page memo, she writes that "Romney's win in Florida came at a very steep price. First, he and his allies had to spend more than $15 million - five times what Newt Gingrich's team spent - on an air assault to take out what is widely regarded as weak competition. Second, and more ominously for Romney, his unprecedentedly negative, far-right Florida campaign continued to damage him among the swing voters he would need in November."
She points out the current level of GOP dissatisfaction with the field and argues that Romney leaves independents disappointed and Republicans dissatisfied. She concludes that Romney has a long nomination battle ahead, saying "No candidate has a chance to mathematically secure the nomination until at least April."
Weigh in: Can Romney's negative campaigning strategy win him the nomination? Or will this strategy turn-off independents, alienate Republicans, and cost him the election?
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