When Wednesday arrives and the sun shines bright in Florida, yellow lines of UV rays quietly blasting the blood stained battlefield that is the next Republican primary, Mitt Romney will have the Latino vote, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul to thank.
The latest polling shows the former Massachusetts Governor making his own surge, averaging anywhere from 15-20 points in the lead. That’s enough to call it insurmountable.
It’s certainly not South Carolina. While Florida is, geographically and culturally Southern, it’s not as Southern as its neighbor to the North with the extra twang. Florida is a multicultural melting pot and mish mash of Latino, Caribbean, White, Black and “Other.” Miami is like New York with palm trees and stucco roofs. Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando are vacation pit stops with transient populations; places like Boca Raton are paradise for worn out Northeasterners looking for quiet retirement. There are probably more transplant Yankees and Phillies fans spread throughout the state than there are Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans in one county.
In many ways, Romney fits in Florida.
Still, the Romney camp should be worried by Public Policy Polling finding their boss leading Newt Gingrich 39% to 32% by 7 points, leaving us to wonder where Gingrich would be if Santorum wasn’t around (he’s at 14%) and Paul was non-existent (he’s at 11%). An Insider Advantage poll only has Romney ahead by 5 points, 36% to 31% – Santorum and Paul are tied at 12%.
That all said, some other prominent polls like Quinnipiac have Romney ahead by 14 points. SurveyUSA has him topping the former Speaker of the House by 15 points. In the We Ask America survey, Romney is pulling out a can of spinach on Gingrich with a 22 point lead. The Boston-based Suffolk University poll shows Romney ahead by 20 points – but, they may be privately rooting for the home boy.
In each of these three last polls, it’s always Santorum and Paul at 11 or 12 points.
Many observers are blaming Santorum and Paul for taking away points from Gingrich. But, there’s little conversation about what would have happened if they weren’t there. How much are they taking away from Romney.
But, the electorate that is giving Romney that extra post-South Carolina push he needs to seal the deal is the Latino vote. Yet, it appears to be the most ignored by mainstream media despite the fact that it may be the swing vote that will determine the Florida primary’s outcome.
A recent Univision-ABC-Latino Decisions poll found Romney ahead of Gingrich 40% to 33%. Still, Gingrich is commanding a sizable chunk of Hispanic voters, just enough that it might give Romney a razor thin run for the $16 million he’s spending on destroying Newt. In terms of favorability, Romney still edges out Newt 35% to 20%.
Latina women also give Romney the edge by more 7 points, 12% to 5%.
This is what’s carrying him over the top. Latino voters account for over 12% of the Republican primary electorate, a very active and vocal mix of Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Caribbean Hispanics, Nicaraguans and Colombians. It also explains why Gingrich is spending a considerable amount of last minute time campaigning in places like Jacksonville, Orlando, Tallahassee, and Ft. Meyer, hoping to scoop up pockets of fresh, red state White conservatives to offset that.
This makes Gingrich unpredictable. There’s always room for an upset; his angry White male, pitchfork mob appeal resonates with many Southern White voters. And the more copy that runs about how much the GOP establishment hates Newt is more food that feeds the insurgent beast. It’s 2010 Congressional midterm redux, a scene right out of 28 Days with flesh-feasting zombie hoards overtaking huge swaths of voting bloc. Gingrich loves every moment of the attention and grows faster with every insult, indignant statement and snub that’s thrown his way.
“What a pathetic situation to be running for the President of the United States with nothing positive to say. All you got to do is try to tear your opponent down to where they get smaller than you are, that’s the Romney model,” said Gingrich on NBC.
He’s probably right. No longer will he be relegated to the kids table. While Gingrich might lose Florida, he’s well positioned for comeuppance all the way back to Tampa Bay. It begins in Florida and it may very well end in Florida, too.