If Mitt Romney hopes to reestablish himself as the inevitable GOP nominee before Florida primary voters head to the polls on the 31st, he needs to trade in his lackluster “above the fray” debate strategy for a bold and decisive new approach: attacking Gingrich from the right.
Romney — who held a 22-point lead in Florida, and was widely perceived to be the inevitable Republican presidential nominee less than two weeks ago — is now desperately trying to convince voters about his viability as a candidate, following Newt Gingrich’s overwhelming 12-point victory this past Saturday, news that Rick Santorum had been belatedly declared the winner of the Iowa Caucuses, and exit poll results which have shattered two of the core arguments of Mr. Romney’s campaign – that Romney is the most electable and that he is the preferred candidate among those who care most about the economy.
While his performance during last night’s debate was certainly an improvement from South Carolina, he was unable to seize control and steer the conversation away from attacks from Mr. Gingrich over his tax returns, private equity dealings at Bain Capital, and his tax rate of less than 15%.
Going forward, the only way Romney can position himself as a formable opponent to take on President Obama is if he can gain momentum with the fiscal conservatives who comprise Florida’s Republican base.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist and Fox News contributor. Schoen, who served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton, is author of several books including the forthcoming “Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond” (Rowman and Littlefield) http://www.amazon.com/Hopelessly-Divided-Crisis-American-Politics/dp/1442215232
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