Onward Ho!

Having overcome a huge hurdle by winning a commanding 15 point victory last night the Florida Primary, once again, it seems all but inevitable that Governor Romney will win the GOP nomination.

But make no mistake; significant challenges still lie ahead for the former Governor.

Indeed,with 31% of Florida primary voters saying that they would not be satisfied if Romney wins the nomination, Mr. Romney must now climb even steeper mountains and ford even deeper streams if he hopes to be as fully competitive as he and his supporters would like him to be come November.

First and foremost, the findings from last night’s exit polls underscore just how vulnerable Mr. Romney remains with core constituencies that comprise the GOP base– specifically conservatives and Tea Party  supporters.

Overall, 41% of Florida primary voters said that Mr. Romney is not conservative enough on the issues, and he trailed the former Speaker among those who self-identify as being very conservative (30%-41%), those who strongly support the Tea Party movement (33%-45%), and Evangelicals (36%-38%).

And while Romney did best among those who said that strong moral character and the ability to beat President Obama are the most important candidate qualities, he trailed Gingrich among those who said that the right experience most important quality (40% – 45%) and among those who said a true conservative was the most important quality by more than 30 points (11%-44%).

Moreover,  Mr. Romney does not appear to have sufficiently countered

Meanwhile, recent polling in Florida indicates that President Obama’s position is actually improving vis-à-vis Romney.

The latest NBC News/Marist poll  shows President Obama  leading the former Governor by eight points (49%-41%) among registered Florida voters. Meanwhile, a new USA TODAY/Gallup Swing States survey shows the President  and Mr. Romney effectively tied (47%-48%)  and suggests that Obama’s position is strengthening in swing states, with his approval rating on the rise from the low-mid forties to the mid-high forties.

And coming on the heels of President’s State of the Union in which he touched upon a number of highly popular themes standing up for the middle class against the Republican Party,  a look at last night’s exit poll data shows that while Mr. Romney did best among the wealthiest voters, he is weakest among voters in the lowest income brackets as well as those who said their family is falling behind.

All of this augers badly for Governor Romney’s chances come November.

What then does Governor Romney need to do?

First, and foremost, he must offer a compelling and coherent explanation – certainly a better one than anything he has offered to date — for what he has done at Bain Capital to counter efforts to portray him as systematically focused on the needs of the wealthy and powerful.

Moreover, the exit poll findings suggest that if this election is going to be a referendum on carried interest and private equity, Mr. Romney will lose.

Consequently, it will be absolutely necessary for him to speak out against the tax break on carried interest.   Carried interest – which refers to the share of profits that partners in private equity firms, hedge funds and real estate developments receive as most of their compensation — is taxed at the 15 percent capital gains rate rather than at ordinary income rates.

He need not — and should not — adopt the Buffet rule as President Obama has and call for a flat 30% tax rate for anyone earning over one million dollars. But he does need some reasonable tax policy — ideally involving some of the proposals put forth in the Bowles Simpson plan such as taxing capital gains at the same rate as ordinary income, while significantly reducing corporate and personal income tax rates.

Above all, Mr. Romney needs to articulate a positive message for why he should be President if he is going to be as fully competitive as he and his supporters would like him to be come November.

It is simply not enough to say that he supports free markets, lower taxes, and lack of regulation, he needs to put forth some sort of overarching and comprehensive plan. Not a 59 point plan, but a plan to get America moving again.