On the eve of the Florida Republican Presidential Primary, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney was speaking with an air of confidence — that his victory in the Sunshine State was only a matter of time.
He's got reason. The latest polls out Sunday morning showing Romney opening a wider lead on the fading former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. RealClearPolitics.com shows Romney with an average lead of 12.5 points on Gingrich. That's his best showing in the political site's average in more than a week, since Jan. 22, when he had a nearly 15 point lead. That said, the Gingrich campaign has latched onto one particular poll released yesterday, from Insider Advantage, that showed Gingrich had narrowed the gap to just 5 points.
Rep. Ron Paul and former Sen. Rick Santorum are jockeying for third place with about equal support in the low teens.
Romney has been credited for shifting tactics to focus directly on Gingrich, spending more and stumper more, but Marc Caputo, Miami Herald political reporter, said there's more to it than hard work. A Miami Herald poll from this past weekend found that Gingrich's wavering support is due in part to his ties to Freddie Mac.
"They viewed it unfavorably, by a good number," he said. "Whereas, Mitt Romney's ties to Bain Capital are viewed very favorably. Romney certainly won the message war, but it's more than that. Romney had the sense to step out of the way when Newt Gingrich started running around with scissors. Gingrich was flailing around, he tripped himself and stabbed himself a bunch of time."
As an example, Caputo said, Gingrich struggled the past week to find a message that would stop Romney's surge, and took several missteps, including airing an advertisement that called Romney anti-immigrant and earned the scorn of most Republicans, including popular Fla. Sen. Marco Rubio.
Ultimately, Gingrich settled on a message of Romney lies — the same message he's used without great effect in Iowa.
"If it wasn't for the souther pines, and the palm trees and the blue winter skies here, you'd think this was Iowa all over again," Caputo said. "And the results are beginning to look like it's going to be just like that — except it's Florida, a lot bigger state."
Caputo said some 600,000 votes have already been cast during early voting — and Romney's political campaign has been working hard to gets more of its voters to vote early. As a comparison, Caputo said South Carolina cast 600,000 votes total in its election.