Winning Tuesday’s Florida primary –which seems very likely now following back-to-back debate wins in Tampa and Jacksonville–will make Mitt Romney the frontrunner in the GOP field.
A new Quinnipiac Poll released this morning show Mr. Romney now leading Mr. Gingrich 38%-29% in Florida.
But make no mistake; significant challenges still lie ahead for the former Governor.
To be sure, his performance last night is widely perceived to be his best debate performance yet, as the Rachel Weiner and Aaron Blake pointed out on The Fix “..given how lackluster Newt Gingrich’s performance was, it’s hard not to call this anything but a win for Romney, who wins whenever Gingrich fails.”
Romney has yet to fully recover from his crushing 12 point defeat in South Carolina last Saturday.
He still faces a serious enthusiasm gap, and nowhere is there a majority of support for him.
Moreover, he remains vulnerable to attacks on Romneycare, his private equity dealings at Bain Capital, his record as a “Massachusetts moderate,” and his tax returns.
He certainly will not get very far with voters if he continues to defend attacks on his investments by saying “I have a trustee that manages my blind trust.” As Dave Weigel put it, “Romney has that Kerry-esque skill of being unable to spin some nonsense about a complicated issue, and instead giving an inherently unrelatable explanation.”
Mr. Romney may once again be the favorite to win Florida, but he hasn’t closed the deal yet.
Going forward, the only way Romney defeat the Gingrich-led insurgent challenge stripped him of his claim to inevitability once and for all is if he can stay on the offense, descend from his Ivory Tower and generate a sense of authenticity and competence with the electorate that he has been unable to achieve to date.