Politics

The Florida Primary & Who Can Lead The Pack

Commentary From CBS 11 News Political Reporter Jack Fink
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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jack Fink
Jack moved to Dallas after three years at WESH-TV, the NBC affil...
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The following is commentary from CBS 11’s political reporter Jack Fink:

(CBSDFW.COM) – So the final push is on for votes in the all-important primary.

If you believe all the polls — which to their credit this year, have been very accurate — then we already know how the race will end up in the Sunshine State Tuesday night: A big Romney victory.

The former Massachusetts Governor is on a comeback.

After losing big in South Carolina, Newt Gingrich had all the momentum and quickly surpassed Romney in the Florida polls.

Then came the debates.

Romney came out swinging against Gingrich repeatedly and landed some hard punches. Gingrich didn’t seem to have the fight in him, and shied away from returning heavy fire.

No doubt the debates that fueled Gingrich’s resurgence now cost him support.

Only now, has Gingrich stepped up his attacks against Romney.

Both of their attacks have become increasingly personal and vitriolic.

Gingrich is calling Romney a “Massachusetts Liberal”. Last week, he was still referring to Romney as a “Massachusetts Moderate.”

“Gingrich’s efforts to fight back may be paying off – because the latest polls out Monday morning showing the race tightening – with Romney’s lead over the former House Speaker down to 5-7 points.”

But will Florida be the end-all?

Some analysts believe Romney will wrap up the nomination if he wins the Sunshine State.

But over the weekend, Gingrich vowed to stay in the race through the party’s national convention in Tampa at the end of August.

Gingrich has now secured a second endorsement from a past Republican presidential candidate. Herman Cain backed Gingrich this past weekend.

Cain won the hearts of many Tea Party members and conservatives, but dropped out after allegations surfaced he had an extra-marital affair.

Texas Governor Rick Perry endorsed Gingrich a couple of weeks ago when he left the race.

But do these endorsements matter? Most analysts don’t think so.

But a kind word by former Alaska Governor and Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin seems to help provide a boost.

Now, Gingrich is talking openly about gaining Rick Santorum’s support. The former Pennsylvania Senator isn’t backing out of the race yet. He had to suddenly leave the campaign trail over the weekend when his youngest daughter, 3-year-old Bella, went into the hospital.

Santorum’s campaign says he’ll get back to campaigning shortly.

But Santorum has backed away from Florida because the winner takes all 50 delegates, and Romney is clearly the favorite.

But given how hard Romney and Gingrich have fought each other, some conservatives are starting to wonder if any of the Republicans can beat President Barack Obama in the fall.

Most of the polls in Florida and nationally show the President would beat any of the Republicans.

Occasionally, a poll will have Romney beating President Obama in a general election.

One question is would Romney hit President Obama as hard as he is hitting Gingrich?

The President’s campaign will clearly go on the offensive against Romney and Gingrich. They already have targeted Romney.

But given Romney’s and Gingrich’s weaknesses — exposed after their repeated attacks on one another — one has to wonder if Santorum wouldn’t be a stronger Republican against the President.

Santorum effectively picked apart Romney’s healthcare law in Massachusetts, and has never supported a government mandate requiring citizens to buy health insurance. Both Romney and Gingrich have repeatedly. Though Gingrich says he has changed his mind and that he was wrong. Romney insists his plan works.

Santorum doesn’t have questions about his wealth and taxes that President Obama will surely target Romney.

Unlike Gingrich, Santorum doesn’t have past ethics problems that continue to follow him now.

He also didn’t consult with Freddie Mac, as Gingrich did.

So why haven’t conservatives backed Santorum more?

Some critics say he was a big government conservative and was a big spender. There actually hasn’t been much enthusiasm for him since the race began.

Conservatives have told me one turn-off was Santorum’s big loss during re-election as Pennsylvania Senator.

Before that, in 2004, he chose to back then moderate Republican Senator Arlen Specter over his conservative challenger, Congressman Pat Toomey.

Years later, Specter ultimately changed party affiliations and became a Democrat. Many Republicans never forgave Santorum.

Even after he won the Iowa caucus, Santorum never consolidated conservative support behind him.

While Santorum has said he will stay on awhile longer, if he doesn’t do well in Florida, the pressure for him to get out of the race will only intensify.

Ron Paul remains in the race, and now is concentrating on caucus states, where he can rally his loyal supporters to come out and support him.

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